Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance holds inaugural meeting at the SU Ag Center

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Members of the Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance (LIHA) held their inaugural meeting at the Southern University Agricultural Land-Grant Campus on January 14, 2019. Seated from left are, Curtis L. Willis, Ph.D.; Joyce James and Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., Chancellor-Dean of the SU Land-Grant Campus. Standing, from left, are Joe Lavigne; Arthur Walker, LIHA Chair; Odis Hill, SU Ag Center Assistant Area Agent; Winston L. Brumfield; Versa O. Clark; Andra Johnson, Ph.D., SU Ag Center Vice Chancellor for Research and C. Reuben Walker, Ph.D., SU Land-Grant Campus Associate Vice Chancellor for Auxiliary and External Engagement.

The Southern University Land-Grant Campus hosted the inaugural meeting of the Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance (LIHA) on Monday, January 14, 2019.

The meeting, which was held in Fisher Hall on Southern University’s Campus, was convened to address new legislation regarding Industrial Hemp.

Industrial HEMP has been around for millennia,” said Arthur Walker, Chair of the LIHA. “It is a grain in the family of Cannabis Sativa L. The difference between it and other versions of the cannabis plant is in the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. It has a level of .3% and below. Marijuana, its cousin, has THC levels of 5 and above,” he add.

THC is the psychotropic component of the plant that can cause individuals to experience a “high.” Making it virtually impossible to get high from the Industrial Hemp plant.

However, it was still classified as a schedule I drug, along with marijuana, by the Nixon administration in the 70’s. Making it illegal to be grown in the United States, but, the purchase of imported raw materials to manufacture products from the plant was legal.

Many of these products include clothes, soap, fiberboard and insulation.

For a number of years the US has spent over $150 million per year on importing Industrial Hemp products just from China alone,” said Joe Lavigne, LIHA member. “We feel that Louisiana is the perfect safe space to take a fraction of that market and really drive the Industrial Hemp economy.”

The small farmers and the small business owners of Louisiana need that infusion of opportunity,” expressed Walker.

The 2018 Farm Bill officially removed Industrial Hemp from the schedule I classification. Industrial Hemp is now classified as a commercial commodity like corn, sugarcane, and rice.

Now farmers can get crop insurance and receive financing opportunities from the federal government to start growing Industrial Hemp,” said Walker. “The whole commodity designation and moving Industrial Hemp from the Department of Justice, where it was a schedule I drug, to the control of the Department of Agriculture is a game changer.”

As of the end of December 2018, 40 states had passed legislation that allowed their farmers and business owners to get involved with Industrial Hemp. Louisiana is among the last 10 states to have no legislation for the commodity.

With the passage of the Farm Bill, those 40 states that have passed legislation are now ready to go to commercialization, as long as their laws are modified to fit under the federal umbrella,” said Walker. “Louisiana has to have something established from ground zero.”

The Alliance hopes to influence legislation in the state of Louisiana to allow the state’s small farmers and business owners to involve themselves in the commercial end of Industrial Hemp.

If legislation is passed, the Southern University Land-Grant Campus plans to assist small farmers in the propagation of the crop.

Part of the Southern University Land-Grant Campus’s mission is to work with small, limited resource farmers throughout the state. We will assist the LIHA in helping to teach small farmers how to grow, cultivate and prepare this commodity as a value-added crop that can be exported throughout the world,” said Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., Chancellor-Dean of the Southern University Land-Grant Campus. “It is our hope that this crop will enable small farmers to remain on their farms and be able to earn a decent living by growing Industrial Hemp.”

The Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance’s mission is to aid in the acceptance of the free marketing of Industrial Hemp as an agricultural crop in Louisiana. The organization is dedicated to a free market of Industrial Hemp, Low-THC varieties of Cannabis, and to change current laws to allow Louisiana farmers to grow this crop and Louisiana processors to process this crop on a commercial scale.

The Southern University Ag Center and the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences together are called the Southern University Land-Grant Campus.

For additional information about the Louisiana Industrial Hemp Alliance, contact Arthur Walker at artw@communicationsone.com.

Contributed by SU Ag Center