Farmers Union holds Hemp Day in Pierre

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Farmers statewide are waiting to see what the future may hold for industrial hemp in South Dakota.

Governor Noem says she opposes it because she says it's tough to discern industrial hemp from marijuana.

But, a dozen interested parties, including the South Dakota Farmers Union, met in Pierre Monday to talk about industrial hemp and the possible revenue it could generate.

From processors, to business owners, to even farmers, they all came together to learn more about hemp.

Larry Volek from Sioux Falls and Randy Wright from Pierre both have land, and they say they are considering adding hemp into their rotation if the crop is legalized.

"It's 80 acres of farmland that could be used to produce hemp," Wright said. "It currently grows alfalfa, or sunflowers, or milo."

"My nephew called me and asked me to come out here and try to determine what the business opportunities would be for hemp," Volek said. "To plant it, grow it, how do you make money with it. Are we going to legalize it in the state of South Dakota? Try to determine what those issues are and how are we going to address them."

Calvin Rielly traveled more than three hours to be in Pierre, to learn how to better campaign for the crop in his hometown of Bell Fouche. If hemp is legalized in the state, he hopes he can turn a profit for the plant.

"I would be interested in farming certain plots of what maybe I would consider unusable or non-productive soil in the area," Rielly said. "So, that we could get some better production, better use of the land. Maybe it would provide a secondary source of income."

Those advocating for the crop say it would've been beneficial this year after the wet weather we've had.

"It grows really fast," Reid Vander Veen, Hemp Processing Solutions director of marketing, said. "The growing cycle for hemp is anywhere from 90 to 120 days, depending on the variety that you plant. So, you could have a late plant, and you could have a plant in the ground late spring-early summer. And still, see that plant come to maturation and be ready for harvest in the fall."

According to the Farmer's Union president Doug Sombke, the state of South Dakota has the perfect climate to grow the crop. He says that South Dakota farmers are up to the challenge of growing hemp.

"South Dakota farmers are just as important, just as smart, just as tech-savvy as North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, or any other state that's raising this today," Sombke said. "They want to do it here. They don't want to go to North Dakota; they don't want to go to Minnesota, they want to do it here."

The Interim Hemp Committee held its final meeting earlier at the capitol. But, they say they are going to add another meeting before the 2020 legislative session. They will hold the meeting after hearing the ruling the USDA will give on hemp.

South Dakota is one of three states that have yet to legalize the growing of hemp; the other two are Mississippi and Idaho.