State Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) is planning legislation for the upcoming session that, if approved, will create the opportunity for agricultural producers in Louisiana to produce industrial hemp, as authorized in the 2018 federal Farm Bill.
If Schexnayder’s bill becomes law, according to an announcement from the Louisiana House of Representatives, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry would be the regulatory agency responsible for developing the production and sales regulations for industrial hemp and industrial hemp products. Those regulations will also require approval by the US Department of Agriculture.
Industrial hemp is used for rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. As of last year, more than 33 states had enacted legislation authorizing the production and research of industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill—a number likely to grow under the bill’s latest version, which expands federal approval for hemp production.
Industrial hemp is defined as a cannabis plant (in the same family as marijuana) with a THC level below 0.3% and has been removed from the Schedule I list of controlled substances.
“Industrial hemp is an alternative specialty high-value crop with the potential to create new industries and enhance economic development for Louisiana,” Schexnayder says in the announcement. “The importance of agriculture in Louisiana increases the need to provide both opportunities to introduce first time producers to agriculture and allow existing producers the opportunity to diversify their farming interests for economic stability options.”
Louisiana’s climate creates challenges for producers of all commodities, so the legislation will also authorize the agricultural arms of state colleges and universities to research the crop.