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House Committee Approves Hemp Bill

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On April 20th, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, HB 3587, authored by Representative Bill Zedler (Arlington) was voted out of the Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee 5-0 with two abstentions. Representatives Tracy King, Matt Rinaldi, Mary Gonzalez, Charles “Doc” Anderson, and John Cyrier voted in favor of the bill, with Representatives Dustin Burrows and Lynn Stucky abstaining.

The industrial hemp bill was heard on April 12th with favorable testimony from Jeff Williams, Owner Operator, Clayton Williams Farms and Ranches (Ft. Stockton), stated, “as a farmer we always chase the crop that can make us the most money and farming in West Texas right now or really anywhere in the United States it’s a tough business. We are in support of the industrial hemp bill as an alternative crop for both dry and irrigable land and see a significant economic impact to the state of Texas.”

 Laurence Armour,  Owner Operator, Pierce Ranch, located in lower Colorado River region of the state, stated,  “rice is going to go away”  due to years of drought and high water costs.  He said. “Hemp could be the answer.”

Industrial hemp, “will provide an economic boon to the state,” stated Rep. Zedler. “It ought to be something that we ought to be able to grow in Texas. Hemp pilot programs are currently in 31 states and are permitted by American Agriculture Act of 2014 A.K.A the Farm Bill. Current law in Texas already allows for the import of hemp and hemp derived products.”

Letters of interest to do research have been written by Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, and the University of Houston and letters of intent to purchase and research have been received from Patagonia, Whole Foods, and Fresh Hemp Foods (Canada’s largest producer and processor of hemp seed and oil).

Texas A&M was represented in testimony by Keith Read, Masters of Science in Horticulture, working closely with Dr. David Baltensperger, Department Head of Soil and Crop Sciences.  Keith stated that, “with more than 25 years’ experience in alternative crops, Dr. Baltensperger opinion expressed to me is, “industrial hemp as a rotation crop could stimulate agricultural and economic research that Texas A&M is ready to provide.”

On March 27th, the Texas A&M Horticulture Graduate Council and the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences hosted the first annual, “Science and Economics of Industrial Hemp” seminar, with guest speaker Dr. David Williams, Professor of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Kentucky. Keith stated in his testimony that, “Kentucky was the first state to pass laws to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp in 2013 giving Dr. Williams substantial insights into the plant science and physiology of industrial hemp, as well as the economic and commodity market potential that are of great value to our state.”

The University of North Texas, Professor of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, and past President for the Society of Wood Science, Dr. Sheldon Shi spoke on his research funded by the, Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Dr. Shi demonstrated his National Science Foundation awarded research with natural fiber substitute to fiberglass that can be used in the auto and home building industries.  

Dr. Eric Hequet, Horn Professor and Chair J.A. Love Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture Department of Plant and Soil Science  Texas Tech University stated, “given the diminishing returns for cotton growers and the continued need for water conservation, finding alternative cash crops for Texas farmers is crucial. On behalf of my department, I would like to express our interest in developing a research program on industrial hemp pending appropriate State legislation and funding sources. This could include, but is not limited to, determining the best genotypes to be grown in Texas for seed, fiber, and biomass production, water use efficiency of the crop, best growing practices, and post-harvest research.”

HB 3587 will move on to the House Calendars Committee and, if approved, would be considered for a vote on the House Floor. If the bill moves through the House it will be brought before Chairman Charles Perry, of the Senate Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs Committee.

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