Texas Observer by Christopher Collins
Now a potential new cash crop — hemp — could give a much-needed boost to local economies and has folks in Haskell and other farming towns in the state buzzing. Hemp and marijuana are the same plant species, but hemp lacks marijuana’s psychoactive properties and can be used to make goods ranging from clothing and paper to building materials and medicine. But there’s a problem: Hemp production remains illegal in Texas, despite Congress deregulating the plant via the Farm Bill last year.
Bob Avant, a Williamson County farmer who formerly ran the biofuel research program at Texas A&M University, testified in favor of the bill. “I don’t think any one crop will be a panacea for rural Texas,” he later told the Observer. “But anything that can encourage production in the rural areas will encourage people to stay there to begin with and certainly help the local economy.” Jeff Williams, a farmer and rancher in Fort Stockton in far West Texas, said in an interview that hemp could help Texas farmers stave off the fierce economic headwinds that are driving some to bankruptcy. He said the promise of a new cash crop could also be “a good incentive” for high school graduates to stick around instead of moving off to the big city.