hemp
Hemp grows in North Dakota in August 2016. As North Dakota's hemp industry soars, legal questions have kept producers from making one of the crop's most desirable derivatives.
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North Dakota’s industrial hemp industry saw extensive growth in 2017 but an over supplied hemp seed market could impact North Dakota’s acres in the coming year.

The research program, run by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, licensed 35 farmers to grow a total of 3,000 acres last year. The year prior the program had five growers with a total of 70 acres accepted into the program.

And Friday about 70 people, a group made up of previous and perspective growers, attended a meeting at the state Capitol to learn about production in the state.

“These are the people that are really serious about producing or processing,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

Because of its botanical relationship to marijuana, hemp only can be legally grown through the department’s pilot program or by universities, provisions made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Goehring doesn’t want to discourage growers but does aim to ensure there is enough demand from processors to support the number of acres planted in the state.

“I’ll continue to expand the number of acres permitted if producers have the opportunity to sell product,” he said earlier this year. “If I’m going to permit 20,000 acres, I’m going to check with processors to make sure they’re able to handle it.”

As $2.58 per bushel corn is causing financial hurt to farmers, Goehring doesn’t want to put hemp farmers in a similar position. Hemp is complicated further by the logistics of storing the harvested seed, which falls under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule 1 controlled substance category, while waiting for supply to go down and price to go up.

Goehring said he has been working on a market analysis with processors in the state, of which there are now two — Healthy Oilseeds in Carrington and, as of a couple weeks ago, Anchor Ingredients near Fargo. He expects to have a better idea about allowable acres in late January.

Applications for planting industiral hemp in the state can be filed at www.nd.gov/ndda/plant-industries/industrial-hemp. The deadline for proposal documents is 5 p.m. Dec. 29. Emailed or faxed submissions will not be accepted. For more information contact Rachel Seifert-Spilde at 701-328-4128 or rseifert@nd.gov.

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

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