It is not too late to consider industrial hemp as an alternative crop this growing season, according to Roger Gussiaas, owner of Healthy Oilseeds.
Healthy Oilseeds is a processor of hemp seeds, flax and borage in Carrington. The company markets the oils it produces in the United States and around the world. The company has processed and exported oilseed products since 2002. The Gussiaas family operates the crushing and marketing company along with operating its own farm in the Carrington area.
The company produces conventional and organic hemp products including oils, protein powders and roasted hemp seed. Gussiaas said he is seeking to contract for additional acres of production in the region.
Industrial hemp is similar to marijuana but has a limited concentration of THC, the active chemical in marijuana. The seeds of the hemp plant are processed for the oil content while the plant fibers can also be utilized although there are no processing plants in North Dakota for hemp fiber.
Growing the plants for the seeds can be an attractive crop for North Dakota farmers with a higher profit margin than more traditional crops such as corn, wheat or soybeans, Gussiaas said.
"There is more of an interest since there has been less value for corn, wheat and soybeans," he said. "Trade concerns with China have also made hemp more attractive."
Industrial hemp is largely grown, processed and consumed in the United States with a small export market, Gussiaas said.
But growing hemp does require a permit from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, said John Mortenson, manager of the hemp program for the Department of Agriculture.
"First-year growers need to go through a background check process," he said. "That could take three weeks or more. BCI (North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation) does the check and then Commissioner (Doug) Goehring reviews and signs off on it."
Mortenson said the same permits from the Department of Agriculture allow producers to grow hemp for either oil or for CBD.
"You need to know what you are growing and where you will sell it," he said.
Gussiaas said farmers don't need any special equipment and can plant with an air seeder or drill and harvest with a combine. The crop can be planted later than conventional crops like corn. The crop can be grown following corn or soybeans in a crop rotation but farmers should confirm compatibility with previously used herbicides.
"It grows so fast it will outgrow weeds," he said.