February 26, 2020

Industrial hemp nears, difficult decisions await - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Industrial hemp nears, difficult decisions await

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Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2020 3:05 pm

The South Dakota House passed a bill Tuesday to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in the state.

The bill still has a ways to go before becoming law, requiring passage by the Senate and a signature from Gov. Kristi Noem.

Legalization was considered last year but opposed by the governor. This year, Noem stated that although she still doesn't think legalizing industrial hemp is a good idea, she stated much has happened in the industry in the past 12 months and will consider signing a bill with a number of "guardrails."

Supporters have suggested that South Dakota farmers would benefit from a new cash crop. But even if the bill is signed, we're not sure it's the panacea that some believe.

The federal government legalized industrial hemp in 2018, and 36 states now allow its growth, processing and transportation. The plant can be used to make a range of products, from body lotions to construction materials, but is mostly grown for cannabidiol (CBD), which can be used to treat seizures, pain and other conditions.

Planting of industrial hemp surged to 285,000 acres in 2019, causing a bit of a glut and driving prices down. New Leaf Data Services, a market data firm, estimates wholesale prices fell between 42% and 53%.

It's possible the market demand for industrial hemp will grow, causing prices to rise. But if South Dakota passes the bill allowing it be grown in the state, farmers will still need to make difficult decisions when deciding whether to add it to the mix of crops they grow.

-- Jon M. Hunter