New Hemp Co-op Sparks Farmers' Interest!

New Hemp Co-op Sparks Farmers' Interest!
Posted by FoM on August 25, 1999 at 07:07:47 PT
Blake Nicholson, Associated Press Writer
Source: SF Gate
A planned industrial hemp cooperative in North Dakota is causing a stir among farmers, and government officials concerned that the co-op is promising something it can't legally deliver. 
Dustin Mathern, who formed the Fargo-based HempCo earlier this month with Janet Miller, another Fargo resident, said details of the co-op are still being worked out but that they include establishing processing plants. Raising hemp, a cousin of marijuana, is illegal. Mathern said he's working with the Drug Enforcement Administration to find a way to legally grow the crop. DEA officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday. ``We're just getting the ball rolling,'' Mathern said, adding that if HempCo isn't able to process industrial hemp it likely would be an organization dedicated to promoting legalization of the product. This week, the state Department of Agriculture has received at least a dozen calls from hopeful farmers looking for more information on the co-op. John Leppert, noxious weeds specialist with the department, said HempCo has done nothing wrong. However, ``We're concerned that information may be floating out there that farmers can rush out to join a co-op and they can raise hemp and process it,'' he said. Hemp, which is used to make clothes, paper, cosmetics and other goods, does not produce a high, but it is still illegal in the United States to grow it. During North Dakota's last legislative session, lawmakers ordered hemp be removed from a state list of noxious weeds that have to be eradicated and instituted a system for licensing growers should hemp production ever become legal. Nevertheless, Leppert said, ``federal law still supersedes state law on this issue. There's no way (the co-op) is going to be able to do it.'' Not only is it illegal to grow hemp in the United States, it also is against the law to import raw hemp into the country, he said. The agriculture department on Monday informed HempCo of that. ``I certainly hope the DEA will modify its position, and allow our producers the opportunity to grow hemp to compete in the world marketplace with this versatile and increasingly valuable commodity,'' state Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said. ``But for right now it's simply against the law.'' The co-op has sparked interest in the farming community, which has been plagued in recent years by poor prices for most crops. Tim Brinkman, who grows small grains near Bismarck, said that even though he knows growing hemp is illegal, he still plans to contact HempCo to get more information on efforts to legalize hemp production. ``Admittedly it's an uphill battle all the way,'' he said. ``But somebody's got to fight the fight.'' Two other Janet Millers who live in Fargo but aren't the Miller associated with the co-op project say they've received wrong-number calls from numerous farmers looking for information. Both said they're not upset about the calls. ``It's fine -- we like farmers,'' said Raymond Miller, the husband of one of the Janets. 08-25 01:04 EDT BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) BLAKE NICHOLSON, Associated Press WriterWednesday, August 25, 1999 
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