By Julie Tomascik

Texas farmers testified in support of HB 1325 and hemp production in the state during today’s House Agriculture and Livestock Committee hearing.

HB 1325 by Rep. Tracy King creates a state hemp production plan and provides the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) regulatory authority over hemp production in the state.

“We’ve watched from the sidelines as over 40 other states have kick-started their pilot programs,” Bob Avant, Williamson County Farm Bureau member, said. “Now that hemp production is legalized at the federal level through the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we don’t want Texas to be left at the starting line.”

Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) supports the research, licensed cultivation, production, processing, commercialization and utilization of hemp in Texas.

The state’s largest farm and ranch organization believes hemp could have a promising future for Texas farmers.

“Our cautious optimism is encouraged as we hear from processors who want to process Texas-grown product here in the Lone Star State,” Avant said.

The climate in Texas is ideal for growing the drought-tolerant crop, adding to the list of reasons farmers want the ability to grow hemp.

“And there’s a massive variety of product that can be produced by the crop due to its impressive composition,” Avant said in his testimony. “The automotive, construction materials, food and beverage, furniture, paper, cosmetics, recycling and textiles are all markets that utilize hemp. Why not allow it to be Texas hemp?”

Avant stressed that Texas farmers should be able to include hemp in their crop rotations as a way to increase their revenue and diversify their operations.

Farmers have also seen hemp products—seeds, fiber and more—being legally sold in Texas for years.

“We want the ability to legally grow what we have the ability to buy,” he said. “These products are already being sold in markets across the state. Therefore, it’s only appropriate that we allow our farmers to also participate in the production of hemp.”

On April 5, the Texas Department of State Health Services rule change will become effective, removing hemp from the Texas controlled substances list.

“It’s becoming less and less clear to Texas farmers how or why restrictions on growing this crop exist,” Avant said. “We need legislation to pass to ensure that Texas farmers have the ability to grow hemp. This will be a highly regulated crop, and Texas farmers understand that. But, from the agricultural producer point of view, we’d like another row crop option and the freedom to determine for ourselves whether it makes sense economically to grow it.”

The bill outlines the steps to be an authorized hemp producer, which includes individuals providing a legal description and GPS coordinates for where they intend to cultivate or process hemp. Growers must also consent to allowing TDA, the Texas Department of Public Safety or any other state or local law enforcement agency to enter onto all premises for inspection compliance.