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Agronomist Cites Hemp's Growing Potential for ND Farmers

Hemp production could see a boom because it contains CBD, a compound with potential pharmaceutical uses. (torstengrieger/Abode Stock)
Hemp production could see a boom because it contains CBD, a compound with potential pharmaceutical uses. (torstengrieger/Abode Stock)
May 28, 2019

MINOT, N.D. – The 2018 Farm Bill laid the soil for growing hemp, giving North Dakota farmers the chance to explore this emerging market.

Although hemp has been around for a while, it's getting new life with the lifting of the federal prohibition against growing the crop commercially.

Eric Eriksmoen, a research agronomist with the North Central Research Extension Center in Minot, says hemp has big market potential and many uses, but it's still not clear what the market will look like.

For North Dakota farmers who have been struggling, especially in the midst of the trade war with China, Eriksmoen says hemp could be used to stem some of their losses.

"They're looking at it as another crop to utilize and to diversify and limit some of their risk,” he explains. “So it has some opportunities."

Eriksmoen says there are regulations on growing hemp, but they aren't stringent. Growers need to obtain a license with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and submit to a background check.

Because hemp is related to cannabis, the plants also have to be tested for the psychoactive ingredient THC.

Eriksmoen says if the THC content is too high, the plants have to be destroyed.

Hemp is a diverse crop with a variety of uses. Its stalk can be used for textiles and the seeds can be extracted for food such as energy bars. Hemp seed oil is used in cosmetics and other food products.

Eriksmoen says a compound in hemp known as CBD, which has potential pharmaceutical uses, will likely be the largest market. It was worth $40 million in 2018, but industry experts expect it to skyrocket, predicting a $22 billion market by 2024.

The barrier, Eriksmoen says, is that North Dakota has no processors for extracting CBD – yet.

"That's an issue,” he concedes. “But I think if we can show that the farmers in North Dakota can produce a viable hemp industry, that the processors are going to be more than willing to set up shop in this state."

While hemp is showing potential, Eriksmoen says it's a relatively untested crop in North Dakota and will need pioneering farmers to test it out.

"How do you get this started and who's going to take the risk and once those issues are worked out then it will either become a viable crop – a viable, marketable crop – or not," he states.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND