House Bill 88, Finished Hemp Product Sales was introduced in the state House of Representatives on Jan. 19, the first day of the legislature. Sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente, of Dist. 65, it was sent to the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee and is scheduled to be heard there Feb. 4.
New Mexico Hemp Coalition (NMHC) Vice President Bob Boylan raises hemp in Torrance County, and has a store in Edgewood, Verve, where products manufactured there can be purchased.
Boylan said the Hemp Coalition has concerns about “some of the language involving penalties and enforcement and the establishment of an Environmental Improvement Board.”
He said HB88 “was put forward this session with recommended changes primarily to the original hemp manufacturing bill.”
The Hemp Coalition is are advocating for the farmer to have more control of their crop after harvest, Boylan said. “This was one of the major concerns expressed by industry stakeholders in a survey NMHC did in December.” He added, “NMHC prides itself in being a representation to our industry that family farms, manufacturers, and processors can be excited about. We believe that people’s voices need to be heard and respected.”
A non-scientific survey asked people in the industry about challenges they are facing for their various hemp growing operations. According to the results, provided by the NMHC, the top issue is legal or regulatory hindrances in the production of hemp. The survey also show high percentages in the “Post-Harvest Processing” category.
“We wanted feedback from the industry organizations that is made up of many hands,” said NMHC President Aaron Diaz.
The hemp industry still faces many challenges in the state, he said. “It’s still a very young industry and the regulating aspects are to bring more harmony into the industry,” said Diaz.
The United States Department of Agriculture approved the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s state hemp production regulatory plan in October, 2020.
States that want to have primary authority over the regulation and production of hemp were required to complete a state plan for review and approval by the USDA. The USDA didn’t amend the harvest window, set at 15 days, and as a result of that the state reverted back to operating under the 2014 Farm Bill.
Boylan describes the hemp industry as currently on the “rebound.” He said his businesses “were impacted like everyone but we also see signs of positive re-energizing of the industry.” He also said that he is “extremely optimistic,” adding, “After two years of struggle, East Mountain brands like Road Runner CBD and BeHempful are showing positive signs of strong growth in both wholesale and retail.”
Diaz said hemp licensing was down over 50% in 2020. The year before there were around 7,000 acres licensed for hemp farming and this year it was down to around 2,000 acres. He said they want to increase that acreage and work toward regulations that make the market habitable for hemp products.
He said there currently isn’t enough infrastructure in place in the state to facilitate some of these plans. The industry is still struggling with things like banking, post-harvest obstacles, labor issues, especially with Covid-19, and skilled labor.
As a collaborative, the Hemp Coalition wants to market sale of hemp products within the New Mexico True campaign, which helps to support farmers of things like beef, chile, and pecans.
The Hemp Coalition is looking to spend the upcoming year continuing its educational forums about the hemp industry, which includes community-oriented education venues, and professional development educational forums in the form of web-based events and seminars.
They are hoping that the conditions of the pandemic will improve and allow for them to return to in-person events in the future.
“It’s really important we reiterate as hemp producers in New Mexico, that we come together with equal footing to share our successes and failures. That’s the only way to advance the industry and become a New Mexico True product,” Diaz said. He added, “Collaboration is about unity to grow and protect the industry and help strengthen the New Mexico economy.”