Businesses hope to be processing South Dakota hemp later this year

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Last summer, about 10 people and 1,600 tons or so of harvest spearheaded the inaugural season of legal hemp farming in South Dakota.

Tuesday, almost twice as many farmers showed up at 9 a.m. to a fluorescent-lit, steel-chaired meeting at an American Legion in Tea to learn about the new crop.

John Peterson, of Dakota Hemp, is a fifth-generation farmer from Wakonda who hopes to offer presentations like Tuesday's for farmers. He and three other men helped explain the crop and its potential for profit, especially if there's opportunity to help cutting down travel all the way to Kansas or Montana just for farmers to process their crops.

“It’s a hearty crop. And it can see 2-4 tons an acre yield, but there’s also getting it to a place to process," Peterson said. "There’s driving hundreds of miles to Kansas now with a CDL truck. That’s where South Dakota can step in."

Peterson wants to get into the processing business to help farmers with their harvest. He urged the farmers at the meeting to not be overwhelmed by stigma or by learning a new crop, because there are opportunities early in an industry.

Derrick Dohmann, of Horizon Hemp Seed in Willow Lake, took time to explain seeds.

Peterson and Ken Meyer, of A. H. Meyer and Sons Inc., both want to get into the hemp processing business to help farmers break it down into fiber or grain. The two new processors set to come to Winfred by Meyer and Wakonda by Peterson, would be some of just a handful in all of the Midwest.
 
But they'd be the first in South Dakota.

"There's at least twice the number of people as last year getting into this," Meyer said of the amount of farmers planning the crop.

If Meyer and Peterson can set up before the Labor Day harvest – and the two men predicted in their presentations that they will – hemp can go from seed to sale all in South Dakota.

But it comes at a price. Meyer is buying hemp bales at an estimated $210 a ton from farmers, because of all the fees and startup costs.

On top of that, there's stigma. Legalization is brand-new, and the state Legislature just introduced Senate Bil 201, which would ensure no single person may purchase, receive, or obtain industrial hemp without a license if the bill passes.
 
Still, Industrial Hemp Growers Meetings are taking place all over the state, sometimes gathering upward of 30 farmers per meeting. And, the crop is easy to learn as you go.

“I can’t tell you how many hours I spent on YouTube last summer,” Peterson said. “There’s a million questions, and people who’ve done it can answer them.”

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