Sen. Lonnie Paxton applauded Gov. Fallin for signing legislation Tuesday to help grow Oklahoma’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. House Bill 2913, by Sen. Paxton, Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Mickey Dollens, creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program.
“Currently, Oklahoma can import hemp but can’t grow it. This will help diversify our state’s struggling economy and will provide a tremendous boost to the agriculture industry,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle. “This new industry will potentially create thousands of jobs and put hundreds of millions of dollars a year into our economy. There’s a strong possibility that it could easily become a $1 billion industry.”
The new law will allow universities or farmers contracting with universities to cultivate certified hemp crops for research and development for industrial uses. The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will manage the program. A revolving fund will also be created for all registration, lab, and inspection fees paid by program participants.
Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world and has been found to have more than 50,000 uses including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel. Being a weed, it is drought tolerant taking one-third the amount of water of alfalfa. The benefits of cultivating this plant is that it can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre per year, which is four times what an average forest can yield and it does not require chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides. Hemp could yield Oklahoma farmers as much as $1,500 per acre.
The new law, which went into effect upon being signed, was made possible by the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowing the growing of hemp under pilot programs overseen by universities. Nearly 40 other states already have industrial hemp programs.