Jeff Witte is the state secretary of agriculture. He grew up on a ranch in northern New Mexico. National Farmers Market Week this week got me thinking about the economic and cultural importance of not just the state’s 75 farmers markets, but of New Mexico agriculture more broadly. On the economics side, New Mexico agriculture is a $4 billion-a-year sector. But the true financial impact of agriculture in the state is much bigger.
A bill that would allow the growth of industrial hemp for research purposes passed unanimously through a House committee on Wednesday morning. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee committee, made up of mostly Republicans and moderate Democrats, heard Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, present his case for SB 94. The bill would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to study the viability and logistics of growing industrial hemp. Republican members voiced their reluctance to vote for the bill. McSorley told the committee that it his bill is important to New Mexico and the agricultural industry in order to stay competitive in many markets.
A Republican Senator is considering introducing legislation that would allow farmers in New Mexico to grow hemp for industrial purposes. Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, is looking into the feasibility of growing industrial hemp as a way to supplement money from other crops grown in the state. Woods told New Mexico Political Report in a phone interview that he started looking at the possibility after speaking with New Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte. Woods doesn’t plan on introducing it until he and Witte finalize the details.
“The agreement I made with the Secretary of Agriculture, who has to regulate [the production of hemp] was that I was going to make sure that he agreed with the outline of my bill before it was introduced,” Woods said.