Legalizing industrial hemp could help Alabama farmers

Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 at 7:11 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The federal farm bill would legalize industrial hemp if signed by the president. The top state agriculture leader said he expects farmers could reap rewards from it.

“It’s going to help Alabama. I’m optimistic industrial hemp can be another cash crop for our growers,“ said John McMillan, the Department of Agriculture and Industries commissioner.

Industrial hemp can be used to create a number of items including car parts, clothing, and building materials.

“It’s anything from food items to components of automobiles and that’s where I think Alabama has the potential to capitalize,” said McMillan. “With all of the manufacturing we have in Alabama, they are using industrial hemp components.”

McMillan Arrington is the owner of Bastcore LLC in Omaha, Nebraska. The company processes industrial hemp and creates fibers to make products.

“This would be a game changer for the local economy," said Arrington. “If you can dream it, you can do it with hemp."

Arrington suggests farmers take precautions before growing industrial hemp. Currently, Alabama does not have the infrastructure or businesses to purchase all of the possible crops.

“If you go out and invest in all of this seed and equipment to plant this stuff and you grow it, you might have a beautiful harvest, but you’ve got no one to buy it," said Arrington.

He suggests growers have a contract in place so they know who will buy their products.

If the farm bill legalizes industrial hemp, the agriculture department said it will not be legal to grow or process immediately in Alabama.

The USDA will require states to submit a plan first. The plan will detail how the state will regulate who grows industrial hemp. McMillan said this could include how to gather GPS coordinates of plots, deciding what agency will visit plots, and how illegal plants will be disposed of.

McMillan said the plan may be set in place for the 2020 growing season.

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