The path to hemp in Texas

Jim Reaves knows, perhaps better than anyone, about the buzz surrounding the legalization of hemp farming in Texas.

Reaves is the Texas Department of Agriculture’s coordinator for intergovernmental affairs, emergency management and business continuity, so much of the interest in hemp farming has been directed his way.

“I’ve had at least 600 emails to our hemp email address and probably 600 to 700 phone calls,” Reaves said.

Mike Nichols, of Port Lavaca, is interested in becoming a hemp processor, or a person in charge of turning the crop into usable materials like textiles and CBD oil.

He said he’s learned through research and interviews with processors in states like Oregon, where hemp farming and processing has been legal since 2015, about the potential profitability.

“This product can make about three times more than cotton or soybean or any other product they’re selling,” Nichols said.

At the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania-based organic farming nonprofit, researchers have studied the crop’s potential to suppress weeds and add diversity to crop rotations.

In Pennsylvania, hemp production became legal for research purposes in 2014. Preliminary results of a four-year Rodale Institute study that began in 2017 found that hemp grows quickly and performs as well as or better than other cover crops.

“As a cover crop, hemp enhances soil health by shading out weeds – reducing the need for synthetic herbicides – and adding diversity to crop rotations, improving soil health,” according to the nonprofit’s website. “Hemp is also versatile in the market, with thousands of uses for its seed, oil and fiber. It is stronger and more durable than cotton, yet requires less space and less water to grow.”

Morgan O'Hanlon is the business and agriculture reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6328, mohanlon@vicad.com or on Twitter @mcohanlon.

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