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     Hemp: Hemp, or industrial hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. — Wikipedia

Some of the best conversations take place around a farmhouse kitchen table.

When a friend of mine and I were visiting last week about growing hemp in South Dakota, I was surprised to learn that one of his reservations related to expense.

It can be labor intensive to harvest, he said. Not that he had to worry about it next planting season because the state Legislature wasn’t able to pass a hemp bill this year.

Lawmakers were overwhelmingly in favor of it, but Gov. Kristi Noem opposed it, which was surprising since I’m certain she knows the difference between marijuana and hemp. Yes, they are both members of the cannabis family, but hemp doesn’t contain enough of the hallucinogenic component to make a grasshopper high, much less a teen-ager.

Given the legalization of hemp as a crop on the federal level, coupled with its expansion in other states, the governor’s position is puzzling even though the state Highway Patrol testified that the transportation of hemp would tie up drug dogs and other resources.  The governor’s office also said there were testing protocols that weren’t ready for prime time.

Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal, who farms near Volga, confirmed that he, too, had some questions. It’s very expensive to grow, he said, several thousand dollars an acre, and he related that when he toured a hemp farm in Germany, he was advised not to get any of the product on his clothes because the airport drug dogs would stop him.

Nevertheless, he thought hemp would be “a viable product down the road.”

The Farmers Union, unsurprisingly, takes a different view, and Karla Hofhenke, executive director, said her organization was promoting it as “just another tool in the toolbox for farmers.”

“We had knowledge of other companies who wanted to come to South Dakota for the end product,” she told me last week. “And now they are going elsewhere.”

Mitch Richter, who lobbies for the Farmers Union, agreed that harvesting hemp would be different from corn or soybeans because the head of the hemp plant is used for oil and the stalk for fibrous material.

“You might go through and combine the heads and then go back for the stalk. In that respect it is more labor intensive,” he said. But he added that the delay is temporary.

“Next year, it will be the governor’s bill,” he predicted, “and she’ll take credit for it.”

May 1, 2019