CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Just weeks after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325, farmers gathered in Corpus Christi to learn more about growing hemp for industrial purposes, which was legalized by the bill.
"We're here to kind of show the farmers how to go about that process and grow hemp legally and safely, and actually enter into a market that gives them a greater return on their investment," said Mike Hendrix with the Go Texas Hemp Association.
During a symposium held at the Del Mar College Economic Development Center, several South Texas farmers listened to presentations on the benefits of growing and using hemp products. Hendrix said the hemp crop has a bigger monetary return than other plants.
"You're looking at about $150 to $200 an acre per for cotton, and when you grow hemp you're looking at about $4,000 an acre, depending on what you're growing that hemp product for," Hendrix said.
He said it costs about $400 to plant one acre of hemp. Luckily, hemp thrives in similar conditions to where cotton grows. Hendrix said that is why they have targeted South Texas farmers like Karl Gibson II.
"I'm thrilled," Gibson said. "I'm very excited to relay back to my parents what I've learned so we can start our business and thrive."
Gibson comes from a long line of farming and agriculture in Tynan, Texas.
"There's many uses that hemp provides and we want to sell those fibers and create the oils and many things that can help people," Gibson said.
Hendrix said when it comes to uses, hemp has huge potential.
"So CBD oil is obviously a very lucrative market for farmers, but also there's textiles. You have contracting and building products that are made out of hemp, so it has an environmental friendly spin as well to it," Hendrix said.
Although the bill has been signed into legislation, the USDA and Texas Department of Agriculture still have to set growth guidelines and a permit application process. Farmers will also be required to monitor their crops to make sure they do not exceed more than .03-percent of THC content.
Cindy Trimble, a lobbyist and distributor, said growing hemp could start an agricultural revolution.
"A renaissance," Trimble said. "It's a great awakening."
Trimble has focused on the benefits of CBD oil, which is extracted from the hemp plant. She said with Texas-grown hemp, this will allow for better quality and vetted CBD oil. Overall, she said, growing the crop in Texas will be a trial-and-error process.
"We're all going to have a learning curve right, because the Panhandle is different than South Texas, East Texas, West Texas," Trimble said. "So we're all going to be growing together."
According to the Texas Department of Agriculture website, farmers should be able to start legally growing industrial hemp by 2020. More information on the process can be found here.
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