BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s first crop of industrial hemp is showing promise, with returns better than a lot of other commodities.

Three farming operations in three counties grew hemp this year under a federally approved research program. The goal is to determine whether hemp can be a successful crop in North Dakota.

Hemp fiber and oil can be used in numerous products, but production has been limited because federal drug law doesn’t differentiate between hemp and its cousin, marijuana.

Research program crop yields range from 860 pounds per acre to 1,125 pounds, according to program director Rachel Seifert-Spilde, a plant protection specialist with the state Agriculture Department. Hemp is worth about $1 per pound, so its value is much higher than the $280 per-acre cost of raising the crop.

“Without a doubt, there was a lot of value in this program,” Seifert-Spilde told The Bismarck Tribune ( ). “There were some good yields and very few hiccups.”

The state research program will be conducted again next year. The Agriculture Department will announce in October when grower applications are due.

“There’s a lot of promise in hemp and potentially big revenue for the farm as we get further into production and development,” said Clarence Laub, a Grant County farmer who grew 10 acres of hemp as part of this year’s program.

Congress in 2014 allowed universities and state agriculture departments to research hemp in states that permit its cultivation. North Dakota issued the nation’s first hemp-growing licenses in 2007, but efforts to establish the industry in the state have been hampered by federal drug law.

The Drug Enforcement Administration registered the state Agriculture Department as a hemp seed importer in August 2015, clearing the way for the research program.

Information from: Bismarck Tribune,

VIAThe Associated Press
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