Legislation that would create an industrial hemp pilot program in Missouri is being considered by the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, would create a pilot program to allow those licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) to grow, cultivate and market industrial hemp.

Under his bill, applicants would undergo a fingerprint criminal history background check.

State Senator Brian Munzlinger (file photo)

During a public hearing Monday in Jefferson City, Munzlinger, the committee chairman, presented his bill before the committee.

“Right now currently there are 34 states that have approved through legislation the production of industrial hemp,” Munzlinger said. “Right now there are 19 states producing industrial hemp.”

Munzlinger, who represents 14 counties in northeast and north central Missouri, described hemp as “one of the oldest crops known to man.”

“The Constitution, U.S. Constitution, was printed on hemp paper,” Munzlinger testified. “Our original money, paper monies, was on hemp paper because of its durability of the fibers that are in that.”

A member of the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Soybean Association testified in favor of the bill on Monday. Dan Erdel, who has a 265-acre farm in mid-Missouri’s Mexico, described hemp as a highly-profitable alternative crop.

“I know that industrial hemp would be a very good substitute. It not only has wildlife benefits, it also has soil protection and nutrient benefits,” Erdel said.

Erdel testified that the net profit for industrial hemp in Kentucky is about $600 per acre, after expenses. He goes on to say that Kentucky is the national leader in industrial hemp.

The Missouri House passed a similar bill last year by a 126-26 vote, but it died in the full Senate in May.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has not voted on the measure.