Minnesota farmers, business owners look to take advantage of hemp

January 19, 2019 07:23 PM

More Minnesota farmers are looking to hemp as a possible cash crop. The Farm Bill, signed by President Trump last month, removed it from the controlled substance list.    

Farmers have been growing hemp in Minnesota through a pilot program since 2016. There were six participants the first year. According to the Department of Agriculture, there were 51 by 2018.

“Agriculture is really struggling right now,” said John Strohfus, a Hastings farmer. “We have low commodity prices. Farmers are always looking for ways to take back their markets.”

RELATED: FDA casts shadow on hemp win, calling CBD products illegal

He was one of the first farmers to jump on the pilot program in 2016. Strohfus said there a several tracks hemp farmers can take, whether it’s food or textiles or supporting the oil and gas industry.

The Farm Bill allows hemp seeds, plants and other products to be moved across state lines. It will also let farmers get crop insurance and grants through the USDA.

“We used to have to import seeds from Canada and other countries for planting and that had to go through a Drug Enforcement Agency process,” said Strohfus.

The Department of Agriculture answered questions from a packed room on Friday.

“The industry is growing in multiples of 100 to 300 percent on annual, much of that growth is coming from the CBD market,” he said.

Each product at Nothing But Hemp in Minneapolis contains CBD oil. It’s a compound found in hemp.

“We’ve already had some conversations with farmers and extractors and we definitely already have some plans,” said Steve Brown, the company’s CEO.

RELATED: National magazine says Minnesota has 'very strong' chance of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2019

Brown said the CBD products are used for anxiety, seizures and even PTSD. Most of the products come from states out west like Oregon or California.

“I think, in the future, we're really excited to actually have some local products here,” said Brown. “We’re looking forward to Minnesota actually cultivating CBD and really start bringing in some really good growers to help this market out.”

Right now, CBD is not regulated. Brown said they are waiting to see if the law change leads to more oversight.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out,” he said. “I really don’t know.”

The Farm Bill requires states to oversee the regulation of hemp production and submit a plan to the USDA. The Department of Agriculture said it will continue to operate its pilot program until the state gets that approval.

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Callan Gray

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