Farmers address benefits and risks of growing hemp - FOX34 Lubbock

Farmers address benefits and risks of growing hemp

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Texas was the first state to launch a hemp program under the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the fiber. 

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller visited producers in Meadow to see the work first-hand.

"We launched our hemp program on March 16th, about the same time that COVID-19 hit so that added some challenges, all of our it people and our programers had to vacate the building and work from home and we didn't have laptops," Miller said. "But we pulled it off pretty good, I'm really proud of our employees."

Bingham Family Vineyards is currently growing certified organic hemp. It will be ready to harvest in about six weeks. 

"Hemp is a very close cousin to marijuana," Kyle Bingham said. "From a federal standpoint, the only difference they see is that hemp must be .3 percent THC or lower."

The Texas Department of Agriculture, under commissioner Miller, is responsible for issuing farmers, processors and labs a license to grow. 

"The law says we have to issue a license in less than 60 days, but most of them we're five days or less so we had good turnaround time," Miller said. "Farmers have been pleased with what we've done."

Miller sees two main potentials in hemp.

"One is the oil production, the CBD and CBG production, that's kind of where all the focus is now," Miller said. "I think the long term play will be in fiber, I like to tell everybody, we're growing rope not dope."

The CBD and fiber from hemp have two different uses. 

"The fiber end of it is used in a lot of rope, canvas, building material and hempcrete," Miller said. 

The Bingham Family Vineyards is targeting the market for CBD oil.

"A lot of people see benefit from the anti-inflammatory and stress relief," Bingham said.  

While there are several benefits to hemp, Miller said there are also some challenges when growing a new crop.

"We can't get crop insurance for it and we don't have any pesticides, so bankers are a little reluctant to finance someone," Miller said. "There's no floor or safety net under this crop, you're taking the full risk of it, there really is no way to limit the risk."

Bingham Family Vineyards  is taking that risk and said it's too soon to tell if it will be a success. 

Sid Miller expects more Texas farmers and processing facilities to accommodate this crop in the future.  

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