California Governor Jerry Brown signed The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act (SB 566) into law, which legalizes industrial hemp agriculture in the state of California. Pending federal approval, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and county agricultural commissioners will oversee and enforce provisions of The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act. SB 566 will create and enforce guidelines for farming specific varieties of hemp for oil, seed, and fiber.
Hemp could be a lucrative cash crop for the state, as it can be used in thousands of different consumer products, including food, paper, clothing, building materials, and even bio-fuels. From a Vote Hemp PR published by the Sacramento Bee:
California businesses currently spend millions of dollars each year importing hemp primarily from Canada, China, and Europe. Demand for hemp products has been growing rapidly in recent years, and it is estimated that the U.S. hemp market now exceeds $500 million in annual retail sales. From natural soaps to healthy foods, there are a large variety of "Made in California" hemp products whose manufacturers and buyers will greatly benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber, and oil.
The environmental and agricultural benefits are not limited to the versatility of uses. Industrial hemp is an excellent rotation crop because its dense growth smothers weeds without herbicides and helps to break the disease cycle. Hemp requires less water and agricultural inputs than other crops, has deep tap roots that leave the soil in excellent condition for the next crop, and is proven to increase yields. These benefits save farmers money and reduce the amount of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers that run into our waterways.
Photo (c) Matthew Staver.