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

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

    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 said.

    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 ’70s. 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 morethan $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,” said 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.

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    A Different Kind of Saint

    Former cornerback puts 300 families into homes, opens the only Black-owned grocery store in Baton Rouge

    Spend five minutes with Tyrone Legette and you’ll instantly hear his passion to rejuvenate broken communities in Louisiana. The former NFL Player played many games in the Mercedes Benz Superdome but the touchdowns he is scoring today are worth much more than points on a scoreboard.

    Legette, a native of Colombia, South Carolina, embraced Louisiana as home as a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints in 1995. After his NFL career ended he decided to remain in the area. “I saw a need here and I wanted to help provide solutions,” said Leggett.

    “Sixty-four percent of the residents were renters and most of the jobs were service jobs. Without a realistic path, many of these hardworking people would never be able to own homes. They deserved to own their homes,” he said.

    “The opportunity to own your own home is the best part of the American Dream. It should be available to all people.”
    He began Legette Construction with a plan to build affordable homes for low income families but also help them qualify for the homes. “We have helped people who have never owned a home get the opportunity to buy homes for the first time,” he explained. Through the Community Reinvestment Act, he was able to share his ideas. Those ideas eventually attracted a partnership with Whitney Bank. With funds available through the Federal Government and the support of Whitney Bank, he became the liaison to bridge all entities together.

    Legette Construction’s homes are now occupied in Harvey (Westbank), the Lower 9th Ward, the Bywater District, Uptown New Orleans, and in Baton Rouge. The company has been a link to bringing other minority construction companies into the fold by contracting them to share the work opportunities. Legette is responsible for building hundreds of new homes and helping more than 300 families qualify to buy them.Tyrone-Legette

    “Mr. Legette is not just building homes. His commitment is much deeper than that. Working for him, I have learned his greater passion is rebuilding Black families,” said Joyce Burges, Legette Construction administrative assistant. “He gets it. The consequences of poverty and the stronghold of financial debt. He is on a mission to help people turn their lives around,” she said.

    Burges, a former city councilwoman in Baker, La., said Legette ’s ideas were so illustrated that she could see his vision to restore the community plain and clear. Rather than seek another council term, she vowed to work with Legette to rebuild her town. “He not only had the resources but he had a plan. A clear plan that would hire people, rejuvenate areas which were deteriorating, but he also had the tenacity to fight the kind of opposition that would surely come his way,” she said.

    Maybe that’s the reason he stepped out on faith and opened the only Black-owned grocery store in Baton Rouge, in an area that’s predominately Black and always overlooked in comparison to other thriving areas of the city. North Baton Rouge, which consists of Baker, Scotlandville, and Glen Oaks communities saw its landmark Winn-Dixie close two years ago. A tragedy that would require residents to drive an even further distance to buy groceries. “It wasn’t fair that these residents should continue feeling ostracized from the economic growth that other parts of the city have become used to,” said Legette . “So, I made up in my mind that I would do something about it.”

    He entertained the idea of several grocery chains but the Sav-A-Lot Corporation seemed to make the most sense. “It was the best fit for this community. Not only have we created jobs in the store but we continue to motivate our workers to think bigger than Save-A-Lot. This store should be a stepping stone. It should not be the final step.”

    Tyrone Leggett. Photo by BlackBoot News.

    Tyrone Leggett. Photo by BlackBoot News.


    The store is a way for residents to get affordable groceries while providing jobs to help produce stable work opportunities in an area that had become used to seeing businesses come and go. “We are here for the long haul. Our vision doesn’t stop with just this one location,” he said. “We plan to open two more stores.”

    When residents heard their new grocery store was Black-owned, it made them even more proud to shop there. One customer cried when the store opened, telling Legette , “I’ve never seen someone who looks like you doing the things you do.” Like other customers, she drives from other parts of the city just to shop in a Black-owned supermarket.

    Football helped shape Legette as a businessman. “There would be 80,000 people in the Superdome but you don’t really see any of them. You hear them, but you don’t really see them,” he explained. “You have to have tunnel vision to get the job done. You have to ignore everything around you and focus on what’s right in front of you. As a visionary, I have learned that same concept has to be applied to business.”
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    He insists his mission has nothing to do with building homes and opening stores. “Those are great business endeavors but it really is more than that for me,” he said. “I am committed to rebuilding families by helping them consolidate debt. If you’re saving $200 per month by paying a mortgage instead of rent and saving another $100 a month or more by buying more affordable foods for your family it frees up money which can either be invested into entrepreneurship or into quality family activity.”

    “Debt breaks up marriages, families, and self esteem. We can rebuild the family by taking the elephant out of the room.”

    Legette has plans to build a quality senior living facility in the near future. While most people would worry about a location to break ground for such a needed facility, Legette won’t have that problem. He not only owns the Sav-A-Lot grocery store, he also owns the entire shopping plaza.

    This Save-A-Lot is not just the only Black-owned franchise in the city.  Legette owns the only franchise of the Save-A-Lot company in the entire state. All the other locations are owned by the corporation. In the ‘90s, Legette played on a football team as a Saint. For the people in South Louisiana, he has actually become one.

    ONLINE:www.blackboot.us/legett-grocery-br

    By Ro Wright
    Courtesy of BlackBoot News

    Photos by BlackBoot News

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