Hemp crops gaining traction in South Dakota

Hemp crops gaining traction in South Dakota

Greta Goede, Assistant News Editor

Next week there will be metings designed to educate farmers about hemp. It’ll help them decide whether they want to jump onto a bandwagon on one of the state’s newest crops in Coleman and Flandreau. 

The  South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association (SDIH) will be holding informational seminars Feb. 9 to teach farmers about the new opportunity to grow the crop. The seminar will include information about pricing, how to get a license to grow hemp, growing methods and field preparations. 

Hemp production became legal in South Dakota in 2021, making it the 49th state to legalize it. In 2022, South Dakota became the second-biggest hemp grower in the nation, right behind Montana. There were around 40 growers in the state last year, according to John Peterson, owner of Peterson Hemp Farm. 

“I see this as a crop that would get into farmers’ current rotations very easily. You don’t have to go buy specialized machinery,” Peterson said. “South Dakota farmers are geared up to start growing it.” 

Last year, 2,540 acres of industrial hemp were planted in the state according to SDIH. The hope for this year is 10,000 acres to be planted, Peterson said. 

Most of the acres planted used dual purpose grain/fiber varieties of hemp, which can grow up to 10 feet tall. Bast fiber and hurd are the two main components of the stalk; this is what many of the hemp products are made from. 

Large acre farms are ideal for grain/fiber hemp growth, and there are no herbicides authorized to use on hemp plants. 

Hemp grown here is used for hempcrete, a bio-composite made of natural material that can be used in construction, animal bedding and eventually hemp textiles and wood. These materials are not currently used in the state. 

“We are in a really sweet spot on the globe,” Peterson said. “It works very well with the hemp varieties we are bringing here.”

Hemp is a short season crop that is planted in May once soil temperature reaches 50 degrees; there could be a decrease in stalk size/grain production if hemp is planted later than that, according to the SDIH.  The crop has a 100-day maturity and it also fits nicely in rotations. 

“You should be able to have it out by Labor Day,” Peterson said.

Once the crop is harvested, it is sent out of state to a hemp seed processing plant. 

There is not a hemp processing plant in South Dakota currently, but planning is underway.

 Most farmers don’t want to switch from corn and soybean to hemp, Peterson said, but hemp is currently a valuable crop that out performs corn and soybean prices. 

The price-per-bushel was $24.20, and for grain/fiber it’s $210 to $240 per ton depending on the variety and acres planted. 

Ken Meyer, president of SDIH, said he hopes to see universities around South Dakota get involved in hemp research since a bill passed for universities to apply for a license. 

Other universities like Texas A&M have already created programs for research. Meyer thinks SDSU will be soon to follow. 

“The future of industrial hemp is really strong,” Meyer said. 

The license process takes two to four weeks and requires a background check. For more information on hemp growth, visit the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association website, www.sd-hemp.com.