South Dakota aims to become the country’s top hemp producer | South Dakota News


By ELISA SAND, Aberdeen American News

ABERDEEN, SD (AP) – Hemp growers in South Dakota expect to more than double the number of acres used to grow industrial hemp, and some are even adding fiber and seed processing capacity in the state.

Fiber processing or ginning facilities are scheduled to open in Wakonda and Winfred this fall. Ken Meyer, Vice President of AH Meyer and Sons in Winfred, and John Peterson, owner of Dakota Hemp in Wakonda, will be the first fiber processing facilities to open in South Dakota.

The two men were recently in Aberdeen to speak with Derrick Dohmann, director of sales and marketing at Horizon Hemp Seeds in Willow Lake, about the future of hemp, which also plans to expand into a seed processing facility.

All see a growing interest in the state when it comes to industrial hemp, and since long transportation routes are required to get industrial hemp fiber to a processing facility, both Meyer and Peterson saw the need for processing facilities in the state, the Aberdeen American News reported.

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Reference has been made more than once to the US Department of Agriculture’s latest National Hemp Report. This study showed that 8,000 acres are planted with industrial hemp fiber, including 1,200 acres in South Dakota.

Peterson said there is currently interest in planting at least 3,000 acres in South Dakota, and that could easily grow to 4,000 to 5,000 acres.

“When we reach 5,000, we jump to the top of the nation,” Dohmann said, adding that the fiber processing facilities in Wakonda and Winfred will double processing capacity in the United States.

All three talked about the benefits and ease of growing industrial hemp. Dohmann said he also has a seed strain that can be grown for both seed and fiber.

Dohmann said the recommended sowing depth is half an inch, with plants close enough together for the canopy to suppress weed growth.

“There’s no specific method for getting it into the ground, but row spacing is key,” Dohmann said, noting that chemical applications won’t be available for weeks.

Crop insurance is also not available in the first year, Peterson said, noting that with a crop, the story is needed first, but once planted, it’s ready to harvest in 100 days, meaning the harvest of the industrial hemp can be completed at the right time before soybean harvest begins.

Anyone considering growing industrial hemp must meet licensing requirements, which include a $50 initial application fee, background checks for the producer, the property owner, and all other key members of the operation, and a $500 annual license fee.

Meyer said the background check alone can take about three weeks and includes fingerprints, but the DANR is working on exceptions for those who cannot provide fingerprints because of their age.

This application process is through the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Dohmann said he was able to take seed orders from growers who had started the licensing process but couldn’t ship to anyone without a license.

Before growing, Dohmann says a soil test is recommended to check for heavy metals. When they are spotted, the crop cannot be grown for seed, although there is one producer who found heavy metals and chose to remove the seeds early and only grow the crop for the fiber.

Peterson said studies have shown that industrial hemp can help with remediation, so he’ll be interested to see if the heavy metal levels on the soil at this property change.

Meyer said there is some oversight by the state while the crop is being grown. Officials will come once to check the crop in the ground, and the producer will have to coordinate with the state to test THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, when it’s time to harvest. Once these tests are complete, the farmer has 30 days to harvest.

Dohmann said that farmers have not had any problems with a positive THC test so far.

When it comes to harvesting, Dohmann said the top is harvested for seed first, but warns that it is harvested at around 20% to 26% moisture and should have air circulation immediately until the moisture level drops to 10%, which is within from one can happen a few weeks.

Peterson said heat shouldn’t be used to dry the seeds because it would affect the oil.

Harvesting the fiber should be cut 6 to 8 inches off the ground and then allowed to dry for one to three weeks until roasting is complete, which is when the stalks break in half and pull the fibers apart in long strands.

And the end product is versatile.

“Anything you can do with a tree, you can do with hemp, but it takes 20 years to grow a tree and 4 months to grow hemp,” Meyer said.

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