Hemp Crops May Pop Up Around NDSU - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Hemp Crops May Pop Up Around NDSU

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The reason you've likely never seen hemp growing on North Dakotan soil isn't because it's illegal.
It's because it's simply too hard to work with Drug Enforcement Agency.
"The DEA has felt, and this is what we've been told in many ways, it mirrors and resembles the marijuana plant very closely and they feel that people would be trying to hide or grow marijuana in amongst industrial hemp plants. So, they have been very reluctant to grant the ability to grow it in that respect," Doug Goehring, North Dakota's Ag Commissioner, said.
North Dakota is one of only 10 states in the country legally permitted to grow industrial hemp. However, in the 17 years or so that industrial hemp has been a legal crop in the state, restrictions on those farmers have been so intense very few, if any farmers, put the money and energy into growing it.
But now, researchers at NDSU may play a critical part in bringing the crop to North Dakota.
The new Farm Bill would put each of those 10 states to work figuring out how to grow a crop that hasn't seen a legal harvest in the United States in 70 years.
David Ripplinger, the state's Bioenergy and Bioproduct Specialist, says NDSU began research on the crop's economic impact about 15 years ago.
"At the direction of the state legislature, NDSU was asked to look at the economics of producing the crop in the state, and what it might mean in the economic development and the results were very positive."
Industrial hemp is an estimated $500 million industry. The crop can be used in a variety of ways. Currently, the United States imports a large amount of hemp from Canada.
But, if the Farm Bill passes, this project may take years before all this comes to fruition. Dr. Burton Johnson, an Agronomist with NDSU, says a new variety, from the first cross, takes about 10 years to produce.  Still, some proponents feel it's a step towards a stronger economy.
"I would have to believe that it's probably going to open the door to look at the cultivation practices and growth for farmers, too. It would probably be less burdensome and restrictive," Goehring said.
The Farm Bill still has to pass in the Senate next week.


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