JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -Could hemp farming be a new cash crop for Mississippi? The state legislature created a task force to look at the potential pros and cons.
It’s important to note that while hemp is similar to marijuana, it doesn’t contain the chemical that makes people high.
There are states growing hemp now. They’re able to do that because of the 2014 Farm Bill that allowed for pilot programs. Last year, the Farm Bill legalized cultivation of industrial hemp in all 50 states. But the regulations aren’t complete yet. And Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s President says there’s a lot left to figure out.
“Is it going to be something we can grow?" asked MFBF President Mike McCormick. "Is it going to be profitable when all 50 states in the U.S. start growing a crop like this? There’s going to be a lot on the market.”
The Legislature didn’t dive in to giving the green light to the crop but rather ordered a task force that will be chaired by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson.
“It’s still a young industry," noted Gipson. "And a lot of people have lost a lot of money. There will be some who will make a lot of money. We just want to be thoughtful and well balanced as we approach this in the task force.”
There are several variables the task force will consider.
“We have a diversity of soils and temperature that we probably can do that here," explained McCormick. "I’ve heard that it’s probably a crop that is more drought tolerate. We get a lot of rain here so that may be an issue.”
Another consideration is for law enforcement.
“How do we tell if the sheriff’s deputies out in a field someone looking? How do we know this is hemp versus marijuana? You can’t tell unless you conduct a study on it,” said Gipson.
And finally if hemp crops aren’t grown in exact conditions, they can end up with more THC than the legal limit. The research work already being done at Ole Miss will be examined as the task force looks at potential impacts and uses. Gipson said the earliest a crop could be legally planted in Mississippi is 2020.
“We really don’t lose anything by having this task force," described Gipson. "My opinion is it is a benefit for the state to learn from the missteps of other states, the problems they’ve experienced, the challenges. And frankly, where is this going to be sold? What’s the market for hemp for the benefit of our farmers?”
The first task force meeting is set for July 8, 2019.
For more details on the task force and who will serve on it, click HERE.