Farmers and ag leaders recap the first year of hemp production in South Dakota

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HURON, S.D. (KELO)– This year was the first year that industrial hemp was grown in South Dakota.

A panel of speakers recapped the states production year at the South Dakota Farmers Union state convention on Thursday.

They touched on the challenges and successes of this new crop, while working to educate and encourage future hemp producers in the state.

This year was monumental for 12 South Dakota farmers. It was their first year growing a new crop, industrial hemp.

BJ McNeil saw this as a new opportunity for his organic operation.

“Hemp is a very competitive plant, we’re always looking for a competitive plants to plant in our fields to help choke out our weeds so we don’t have to do a lot of tillage and disturb the soil a lot during the growing season,” said BJ McNeil, farmer from western Beadle County. “So the hemp flies out of the ground extremely aggressive, if you start clean it will out compete any weed and that was one of the main reasons we wanted to do that and also in the organic side of it the profit was very good.”

But he did face some challenges. There was some trial and error when it came to drying the grain after harvest.

“Planting it, super easy, combining it, not too difficult, managing the seed is where the trick is and then the final trick obviously make sure you have a market,” said Mcneil.

Agricultural leaders are excited for the opportunities hemp brings to the state.

“It was pretty exciting year, we’re seeing some really good yields, sounds like the seed quality off of some of these plants is really good, so exciting times, waiting for the processing to kick in and see what the return on investment truly is,” said Oren Lesmeister, South Dakota Farmers Union board member and District 28A State Representative.

“It’s an opportunity for the farmers to have a new crop for their rotation and also it means the possibility for different jobs that come along with the processing of that crop,” said Ken Meyer, President of the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association.

Right now, there is only one CBD hemp processing plant in South Dakota. But they anticipate there will be more in the coming years.

“It’s definitely going to grow and keep up with the growers and the growers will have a place to go with their crops,” said Meyer.

Mcneil offered some words of advice for those interested in growing the crop.

“Just make sure number one you’re ready to handle the wet grain at harvest time and number two, make sure you have a market, don’t speculate,” said Mcneil.

Farmers who are interested in adding industrial hemp to their crop rotation must work with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to get the proper license and certification. While they can do this at any time of the year, you’re encouraged to do it as soon as possible so you have time to prepare for the next growing season.

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