Farming sector backs industrial hemp cultivation in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – After stating that the proposed legislation to promote the cultivation, research and commercial development of industrial hemp in Puerto Rico is viable, the Agronomists Association, the United Retailers Center, the Puerto Rico Chemists Association, and Independent Agronomists favored House Bill 1071, proposed by the executive branch in its government plan.
At a public hearing held by the House Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships & Energy, chaired by Rep. Víctor Parés Otero, Agronomists Association President Pablo Jiménez Cruz stressed that the proposed bill “will serve to develop economic activity in the agricultural sector.”
“[HB 1071] is a tool for job creation, especially in our professional class […] In Puerto Rico, we have a competitive advantage over many producers on the planet: our climate, our soil, our geographical location, which allow us to produce one or two more harvests a year,” the agronomist emphasized.
To boost job creation in the farming sector, Jiménez Cruz said the proposed Industrial Hemp Regulation Act should establish that measures related to this industry must be approved and be inspected, include training and be overseen by a duly licensed agronomist.
The United Retailers Center (CUD by its Spanish acronym), represented by its president, Nelson Ramírez Rivera, emphasized that the bill proposed to develop the emerging hemp industry “is a highly profitable industry, and that is precisely one of its main strengths.”
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant grown for its industrial potential such as the tough fiber found in its stem. The bill’s statement of purpose states the plant can be used in a variety of ways, such as in the manufacture of fabrics for clothes, belts, shoes and wallets, as well as the production of paper, auto parts and the production of cooking oil, animal feed, dietary milk, seeds and protein.
Ramírez Rivera said the measure could face several challenges, such as the delay in issuing licenses and permits by the government and the possible rejection of banks, the insurance industry and more conservative groups. He also presented a series of amendments, such as the formalization of the sale of hemp as a product with medicinal attributes.
Meanwhile, agronomist Carlos López Rodríguez, in representation of Be Better P.R., argued that HB 1071 “represents an important opportunity to attract foreign investment.” However, he said that “local investment should be emphasized in an inclusive, equitable way and not limited to the participation of small and midsize businesses.”
In a previous public hearing for the bill, Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy–who will serve as president of the Industrial Hemp Board–couldn’t provide an estimate on the industry’s economic impact on the island, although he stressed it would be an incentive for the agricultural industry.