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Hemp in Senate Farm Bill; Will Noem Support New Cash Crop for SD Farmers?

Billie Sutton and Kristi Noem appear in one more debate today at noon at the Sioux Falls Rotary Club. KSFY’s CW station will air the debate live and rebroadcast it tonight at 9 p.m. KSFY proper plans to rerun the debate on Sunday, November 4, at 4 p.m.

Among the questions I’d like the Rotary Club to ask is whether Congresswoman Noem will go back to Washington when she gets done campaigning and support the legalization of industrial hemp currently in the Senate version of the stalled Farm Bill. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden from Oregon certainly supports that cash crop:

“It’s time that we recognize industrial hemp for the agricultural product it is,” Merkley said. “This is a cash crop that hasn’t been allowed to meet its full economic potential because of outdated restrictions. Senator Wyden and I will keep working across party lines with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to keep the Hemp Farming Act in the 2018 Farm Bill, and provide economic opportunity for farmers across rural Oregon and rural America. This is good for jobs, good for our communities, and just good common sense.”

“Legalizing commercial hemp farming and production nationwide would end antiquated, decades old, ill-informed policies and open up rich economic opportunities for farmers in Oregon and all around America,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. “I am proud to work on this bipartisan legislation that creates entrepreneurial, good-paying, rural jobs building on our state’s world-renowned agricultural strength by adding hemp, at long last, to the Oregon farming mix” [Senator Jeff Merkley, press release, Klamath Falls News, 2018.10.24].

With South Dakota farmers sucker-punched by Trump’s tariffs, it would only make sense to allow South Dakota farmers to diversify their crop rotation with a cash crop with multiple applications and markets. Congresswoman Noem voted for a hemp research provision in 2013. State Senator Billie Sutton has supported at least three bills and resolutions (2014 HCR 1017, 2016 HB 10542018 SB 205) to allow South Dakota farmers to grow hemp.


  1. jerry 2018-10-29 09:22

    This cold war with China and tariff bungling, is about as dumb as not being able to grow agricultural hemp. The cash crop that comes from hemp could not only be used to export, we may even be able to manufacture clothing, paper products and many other operations right here.

  2. Michael L. Wyland 2018-10-29 10:36

    Jack Marsh, as debate moderator, will be asking all the questions at today’s joint Rotary/Lions meeting/debate. This follows the same pattern that Jack and the service clubs followed for the other debates they hosted in October.

  3. OldSarg 2018-10-29 11:35

    There is not a large enough market to choose planting hemp over corn or beans.

  4. Debbo 2018-10-29 21:04

    Many years ago there was a great little shop on Lake Street in Minneapolis named A Loon, A Tick, that sold lots of hemp products, including clothing. Hemp fabric has a very comfortable feel, somewhere between linen and cotton. I think it would sell well. There are so many products made from hemp.

    I don’t know much about growing hemp. Is it a row crop or planted like small grains? I understand it’s very hardy, needs little water or fertilizer. Is that right?

    Sounds like a great match for SD but Noem may not help because she is Not a good match for SD.

  5. grudznick 2018-10-29 21:09

    Drug addicts and dope dealers can also hide their illegal demon weed within the fields, Ms. Geelsdottir, and melt many young minds.

  6. bearcreekbat 2018-10-30 01:47

    Hiding marijuana crops? What about hiding those crops in corn fields – should we outlaw corn, or dispatch the DEA to traipse through local cornfields to search for hidden marijuana? And what about sunflower crops, they seem tall and thick enough to hide marijuana crops – should we outlaw sunflowers? Or soybean crops – clever marijuana growers could regularly crop the plants to keep them the same height as soybean plans. What say you Grudz, should we outlaw corn, sunflowers, soybeans, and any other crop that might conceal marijuana? Although that might be hard on farmers, the pain of tariffs seems acceptable, so why not just outlaw farms altogether to assist law enforcement in finding sneaky marijuana plants?

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-30 05:26

    Good reminder, Jerry, that the hemp provision in the Farm Bill is a Republican idea. Thune and Rounds have apparently already voted for it; Noem needs to get in line with her boss.

    To support BCB’s point:

    As any experienced marijuana grower will tell you, according to the federal government’s Congressional Research Service, it’s imperative that pollen-producing male plants be kept away from female plants.

    …Pollination creates seeds. The problem is hemp needs seeds to be worthwhile – they can be sold as food or turned into oil – but the opposite is true for marijuana.

    “Marijuana growers would not want to plant near a hemp field, since this would result in a harvest that is seedy and lower in THC, and degrade the value of their marijuana crop,” the Congressional Research Service paper said [Will Doran, “NC Rep Says Concerns Over Links Between Hemp, Marijuana Aren’t Based in Science,” Politifact, 2016.06.14].


    “The big concern by law enforcement was that (drug dealers) would hide marijuana in the middle of hemp fields,” [Idaho State Rep. Tom Trail] said. “But I had testimony from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police saying that wasn’t true, because cross-pollination ruins the quality of the marijuana. The pollen can float about 15 miles” [William L. Spence, “Congress Has moved to OK This Once Controversial Crop, and Idaho Could Benefit Big Time,” Idaho Statesman, 2018.07.04].


    Once a corn field is planted and herbicide applied, many farmers don’t return to a given field until harvest time. The biotechnological and labor-saving innovations that have reduced costs for corn farmers mean that literally no one walks into the average corn field during the growing season. Which presents a major opportunity for marijuana growers. Indeed, entire Internet forums devoted to sharing tips for growing marijuana in other people’s corn fields have sprouted.

    …One family I work with is a third-generation farm growing on 2,000 acres—over half of which are corn. The past several years they have found marijuana growing in at least one of their fields during harvest and reported it to the police. (The family asked not to be identified in this article, citing privacy concerns.) Sometimes they catch it before the growers harvest the marijuana, other times not. In 2010, they found an unusually large patch, two rows of 400 plants along a field edge that had yet to be harvested. The local cops staked it out overnight but the marijuana growers never showed. The DEA was called in to cut down and burn the contraband. Knowing the time, energy, and money that go into a crop, the family cursed the idea that someone was freeloading on their good soil and irrigation.

    As they watched the bonfire die down, they asked the DEA officials to estimate the value of the marijuana they had just burned. The reply: half a million dollars. The farmers had to laugh. The value of the corn that had been cut down to grow it? $32. Piggybacking on the incredible technological investments required to create so much corn, marijuana growers reap orders of magnitude more revenue per acre. This fact is not lost on individual farmers, but is virtually undetectable in national conversations about the profits and pitfalls of industrial corn agriculture [Kaitlin Stack Whitney, “The Secret Pot-Growing Operations in America’s Conrnfields,” The Atlantic, 2014.09.02].

    Evidently cornfields need as much surveillance and regulation as hemp fields… maybe more, since cornfields won’t cross-pollinate and ruin a marijuana crop.

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