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Licensees Have Different Plans

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The first two North Dakota farmers to be licensed to grow industrial hemp have different plans for their future crops, assuming the federal government allows them to be cultivated.

Dave Monson, of Osnabrock, in northeastern North Dakota, and Wayne Hauge, of Ray, in the northwestern corner of the state, on Tuesday received the first two licenses issued under new state rules for growing the crop.

Hemp can be used to make numerous products, from food to clothing, and Monson said he has received calls from potential buyers as far away as Taiwan. Monson, who also is a state lawmaker, wants to sell both hemp seed and fiber.

"I hope to capitalize on every part of ( the plant )," he said. "There will be no problem finding a market."

Hauge said he wants to grow and sell registered hemp seed to other farmers.

"I think it's a viable crop," he said. "I think it would work well in rotations in both eastern and western North Dakota."

Hemp is a cousin of marijuana and falls under federal anti-drug rules, even though it does not produce a high. That means farmers licensed by North Dakota to grow hemp must also obtain approval from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which is not certain.

The annual federal registration fee is $2,293. Monson said the federal fee to import seed from Canada, where hemp is legally grown, would be an additional $1,147, though he and state Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said one person could import seed for several farmers.

The state license costs a minimum of $202. Monson said with licensing, registration and seed expenses, "before you even get out of the chute you're looking at $400 an acre ( in costs )."

Hemp still can be profitable, Monson said.

"You're looking at $500 an acre for seed and whatever you can get for fiber ... $100 per acre for straw would be realistic," he said. Organically grown hemp could fetch as much as $900 per acre, Monson said.

If he gets federal permission, Monson plans to seed 10 acres of industrial hemp this spring to "test the waters." Hauge plans to grow 100 acres.

Both farmers also grow other crops, including the more traditional wheat and barley. Monson also grows canola, and Hauge last year experimented with black beans.

Neither farmer plans to build a fence around his hemp field. A fence is not part of the state licensing requirements, though one would be needed under federal rules.

"They have this additional crazy requirement that is designed for drugs," Johnson said. "Chain-link, razor-wire topped, 10 to 12 feet high, 24-hour surveillance."

Johnson has urged the DEA to ease its rules, and plans to meet with officials in Washington, D.C., again early next week to "request that they work in every way possible with us."

Law enforcement officials worry that industrial hemp crops could shield stands of illegal marijuana. Supporters of legalizing hemp cultivation say that fear is unfounded.

In a related development, the North Dakota House on Tuesday approved legislation that gives North Dakota State University the authority to import and resell industrial hemp seed. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The bill is HB1490.

Source: Bismarck Tribune (ND)
Copyright: 2007 The Bismarck Tribune
Contact: bismarcktribune.com | Bismarck, North Dakota News
Website: bismarcktribune.com | Bismarck, North Dakota News
 
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