(WBNG Binghamton) Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Tom O'Mara introduced a bill that would allow farmers in New York to grow hemp.
Hemp is used to make fabric, rope, paper, oil, soap, lotion and food around the world.
A provision of the U.S. Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama on February 7, legalized the growth of hemp for research.
The substance had previously been banned because it stems from the same plant as marijuana. However, according to the state, industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct varieties of cannabis and it is not possible to extract a drug from hemp.
Legislators said that passing the bill would be a positive change for the future industry.
“The Farm Bill opens a door for New York to begin taking advantage of this multi-use crop,” said Lupardo. “Hemp has the potential to be a new opportunity for our emerging agricultural industry. Both its stalk and seed can be used for textiles, building materials, paper, food and environmental products like biofuels.”
In 2012, retail sales from imported hemp products were estimated at $500 million. The New York Farm Bureau said the new bill would position the state as a leader in hemp production.
“Industrial hemp production would offer New York’s farmers new economic opportunities. Diversification is important as farms look to remain successful in a global marketplace, and industrial hemp could be another profitable alternative for agriculture, which in turn, would help boost the state’s rural economy,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. “This legislation would put New York growers in a position to take advantage of changing federal regulations.”
If approved by the legislature, hemp production for research could begin immediately by either the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets or by colleges and universities.
Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a potential candidate to participate in the pilot program.
“Industrial hemp is an excellent candidate from a biomass standpoint, with high yield as well as multiple potential value-added uses,” said Jerry Cherney, Professor of Agriculture at Cornell. “Alternative markets allow farmers to minimize their risk and maximize profits.”
If the legislation passes, New York would become the 11th state in the country to produce hemp.