Judge to rule on industrial hemp

Local News

A South Dakota tribe is fighting to grow industrial hemp, even though it’s illegal in South Dakota.

Wednesday the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe took its case to federal court to try and get the U.S. Department of Ag to accept its plan to grow it. 

Attorneys for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe argued in Federal Court that Congress made industrial hemp legal in the 2018 Farm Bill and they want to capitalize on the newly approved ag product. 

“Currently hemp is a $700 million industry in the United States alone and participating in that market could be the next great business venture for the tribe,” tribal attorney Seth Pearman said. 

They say it’ll create jobs and other economic opportunities for tribal members.

The tribe submitted a plan back in March to the Department of Ag to grow hemp on 6,000 acres on three sites.  The U.S. Secretary of Ag still hasn’t made a ruling on the plan.  

Tribal attorney Ben Fenner said in court, he wants the courts to force the USDA to do its job. 

“Review our plan within 60 days of the receipt, as Congress implies, if you read the statute it’s in violation of that provision,” tribal attorney Ben Fenner said. 

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that even though Congress made hemp legal in the 2018 Farm Bill, the Department of Ag still hasn’t put regulations in place that are consistent for all states and tribes to follow and they wouldn’t be put in place for the 2019 growing season. 

“That’s not the tribe’s position, we think the 2018 farm bill provides situations, we can follow the controlled substance act and other federal laws to actually grow hemp,” Pearman said. 

Federal judge Karen Schrier says she’ll make a ruling on the case by Thursday.

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