The Economic Development Association of Rothsay, Minnesota, gathered at Big J’s Smokehouse on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 to share information about the hemp market and what that can provide for local opportunities.

This meeting invited growers, entrepreneurs and experts to discuss the landscape of the growing hemp industry, the emerging opportunities for communities and for growers as well as challenges this industry poses.

“The hemp market has the opportunity to create jobs in the Rothsay area, give local growers an additional option in crop rotation, as well as attract entrepreneurs to our area,” Mayor Joe Tillman said.

Harold Stanislawski is a project development director at Agricultural Utilization Institute. He works in communities to further the development of agriculture products, co-products, renewable energy, food and bio-based materials.

“Hemp is a new product. There is a lot to learn and understand about the crop its different areas such as food, CBD (cannabidiol) and fiber,” Stanislawski said.

Stanislawski explained that there are two kinds of hemp being grown: food and fiber.

The food side of hemp works to produce products such as food-grade cooking oil, salad oil, protein and granola for snack bars. The markets for this industry are growing throughout the Dakotas and in Minnesota.

The fiber side of the hemp industry has not yet been fully developed and so there has not been a large mass of this sort of hemp being raised due to the need for the infrastructure. Hemp fiber can be used for bio-composites, textiles, carpets and plastics.

“These conversations are good for the community to have. It’s good to learn what we need and to carefully prepare for those opportunities as they emerge,” Stanislawski said. “Communities are trying to position themselves for the future and potential growth. By being informed and having engaged communities is what the most progressive communities do to get levels of investment to come in.”

These provide opportunities for producers and processors to consider for investment into the industry into the future. The opportunities for regions within the hemp industry are centralized to the farmers. Although it does provide benefits to locals working on the production and processing end.

The investment of infrastructure is not the only challenge for this industry. North Dakota state Rep. Tom Kading, R-District 45, said there is a lot of confusion when it comes to regulations within the hemp industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the North Dakota Century Code have two different standards which creates much confusion for growers and processors involved in the industry, Kading explained.

“The hemp industry is growing very quickly and certainly has the need for farmers to take advantage of that,” he said. “The price (of corn and soybeans) haven’t been really great the last two years, so if farmers can benefit from better prices that would be awesome.”

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 authorized the production of hemp with certain regulations. This bill also removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of controlled substances, according to the USDA.

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