Beginning in 2019, farmers in New Mexico will be allowed to produce industrial hemp. Regulations for growing the crop, approved by the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Board of Regents, are expected to benefit growers and create a new economic driver for the state. The rule will be administered by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
Industrial hemp, while related to marijuana, contains less than 0.3 percent of the chemical THC. It is used across the country in fibers and fabrics and its oils are extracted for use in a number of cosmetics and other products. Creation of these value-added products, derived from industrial hemp, has the potential to generate additional state tax revenue.
Under current circumstances, industrial hemp production is quite profitable, especially when compared to other crops grown in New Mexico. It also uses less water than other crops grown in the state and does well in a number of climates and soil conditions.
“In terms of economic development, it is highly desirable for our state and New Mexico State University to explore opportunities to diversify our economy,” says State Sen. Mary Kay Papen. “It’s another tool that allows New Mexico farmers to diversify their crop base and seek new market opportunities. I appreciate NMDA for working closely with stakeholders to develop the regulations to guide this emerging industry.”
NMSU leaders say the university will now begin to assemble resources needed to aid growers and others in the hemp industry, as the new crop begins to be established in the state.
“NMSU is perfectly positioned to help this industry,” says NMSU president John Floros. “We have expert researchers in agronomy, plant pathology, biochemistry, chemistry, engineering and other areas. We can help with every step of this process, from agricultural production to harvesting and from processing to marketing.”
In recent years, the federal government has loosened regulations regarding the production of hemp. Under the new rules, industrial hemp grown in New Mexico will be controlled, with growers required to work closely with the NMDA. Growers must have a hemp production license and follow other guidelines. Their crop must also be tested to ensure the THC level is below 0.3 percent. If the crop exceeds those levels, it must be destroyed.