Local RC&D Urges Look At Industrial Hemp

Local RC&D Urges Look At Industrial Hemp
Posted by FoM on November 13, 1999 at 20:19:41 PT
Upcoming Event - November 20th, 1999
Source: West Central Tribune
Corn, soybeans and hemp.Doesn't sound like the usual crop rotation, does it?Maybe not, but there's a growing number of people who think that industrial hemp does have a role to play in the future of agriculture for this area.
They include the Prairie Country Research and Development Council in Willmar, which is helping co-sponsor an upcoming conference on industrial hemp.The Nov. 20 "Hemp and Sustainable Farming Expo" at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria is an opportunity for area farmers to explore what the prospects are for diversifying their production by making hemp an alternative crop, according to Randy Nelson, RC & D director in Willmar.Nelson said the local council already has gone on record of urging the state to look at the possibility of making industrial hemp a legal, but regulated, crop. Given the current farm situation, council members believe it is important to take a look at getting in on the ground floor of this emerging industry, he explained.Proponents believe that industrial hemp offers an opportunity both to diversify and add value. Industrial hemp can be processed into nearly 30,000 different products. They range from non-dairy butter, cheese and milk to long-wearing denim and clothing articles, paper products and, of course, rope.Renville County farmers planted 4,000 acres of industrial hemp in 1943 and 1944 to make rope for the U.S. Navy during World War II, according to Frank Svoboda's "A History of Agriculture in Renville County.'' Farmers raising hemp in Kandiyohi, Renville and other neighboring counties were to bring their product to processing plants specially built for hemp in Bird Island and Lake Lillian.Hemp fell victim both to the war's end and a growing preference among farmers for a new and emerging crop - soybeans.Nelson said there are some who believe that hemp could become what soybeans have been for this area: A value-added crop well-suited to changing farm needs. Hemp is both pest- and drought-resistant, said Nelson, and requires minimal amounts of fertilizer. Many prefer sustainable agricultural practices to raise the crop, he said.Will it sell? Kevin Edberg, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will address the topic at the upcoming conference. Nelson said many countries are opening up their lands to industrial hemp production in the belief that markets for the crop are sure to grow.Gov. Jesse Ventura has expressed his interest in seeing Minnesota explore its potential, and the University of Minnesota is currently conducting research on the crop.All the same, it faces formidable challenges. State and federal law enforcement groups warn that legalizing industrial hemp could make it impossible to stop domestic production of its well-known cousin, marijuana.Nelson said the local RC & D board members believe that regulatory controls certainly would be needed. They support a proposal calling on the Department of Agriculture to license hemp production. Farmers would be issued permits to raise the plant, and their fields would be subject to unannounced inspections.Farmers raising the crop would not need to worry about nighttime raids by those wanting to smoke their hemp. Industrial hemp contains only tiny amounts of THC, the compound which gives marijuana users the high they seek. Smoking industrial hemp provides nothing more than a headache, say hemp proponents.The Nov. 20 conference will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and include both seminars and exhibits. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and WesMin Resource Conservation and Development are co-sponsors of the event with the local RC & D. For more information, contact the Wes Min RC & D at 320-763-4733. Published November 12, 1999feedback  Forum Communications Company 1998Related Articles & Web Sites:MDA Home Page RC&D Offices Jesse Ventura's Web Site Awaits DEA Nod For Hemp Plan - 10/01/99 Sends Letter To President Clinton On Hemp - 10/01/99
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