State officials identified potential growers, including one in Grant County, to test whether industrial hemp could be successfully grown in North Dakota.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring will make the final choices, but three or four of the 11 eligible producer applications stood out from the rest, including that of Elgin native Clarence Laub III.

Laub said he has been researching growing hemp for about two years. His interest in the crop is as an agronomist and private crop consultant.

Laub plans to grow 10 acres of hemp on his family's farm as a way to try it out and see if it could work as a potential new crop for his customers. He said he's found it works out well when he tries out new crops first and can give first-hand recommendations to clients.

"There's definitely interest in it," he said, based on conversations with growers, although there is some hesitancy until they are assured it can be done and there will be a market for the product at the end of the growing season.

Laub said, from research he has done, the biggest challenge will likely be weed control. He hopes to start growing the crop early in the season to combat them.

Laub plans to market all parts of the plant if possible, grains and fiber, which impressed the advisory council in charge of evaluating applicants. His main focus will be on the oil, though, because it will likely be easier to get to market.

Laub already has access to equipment for harvesting and is working to get on-farm oil extraction equipment because from his research he has learned it can be difficult to get approval to move the crop across state lines for processing. If it works out, he might look for investors to start a processing plant in North Dakota.

(Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com)

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