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Business & Economics

Harvest 2021 is an indication industrial hemp is off to a strong start in South Dakota

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Courtesy photo
Fourth-generation Mitchell farmer Joshua Klumb with 2021 crop of industrial hemp he harvested in September.

Because it is a new crop and there is a learning curve, Dohmann encourages South Dakota farmers interested in planting industrial hemp in 2022 to start out with just a few acres.

Harvest is nothing new for fourth-generation farmer Joshua Klumb. But this year the Mitchell farmer said he was a bit nervous.

“The thing I was most anxious about was getting it properly harvested in a condition where it could be stored,” Klumb says.

The crop he is referring to is industrial hemp. 2021 was the first growing season it was legal to grow in South Dakota. And as the District 20 Senator, Klumb says he felt it was his duty to be among the first producers to try it out. This year, about 12 farmers statewide grew industrial hemp for grain, fiber and CBD oil.

“After we got it to pass, I thought, you know, I put a lot of talk out there, I should probably put some actual work behind it and make sure it works the way it's supposed to work. And make sure what we were trying to sell to people is real,” Klumb says.

Klumb says although there are numerous regulations and paperwork associated with growing industrial hemp, once he got approval from the state, and planted the seed, industrial hemp was an easy crop to grow.

“We got our seed. We planted it on May 19th and we didn’t go back in that field until the second week in September,” Klumb says.

He did not need any inputs - like fertilizer - because the 7-acre plot of land he selected to grow the industrial hemp on had been a cattle yard. And no herbicides were needed because the crop canopies quickly, keeping the field free of weeds. Klumb harvested the grain with a combine used to harvest corn.

“We yielded 1,000 pounds per acre and we sold it for 55 cents a pound…It came out at about 29 to 30 percent moisture. We didn’t have a lot of hassle, but you have to have it on air within like three hours because it is so wet. We managed to get it into the wagon and haul it right away to the bin which was a couple hundred yards away and dump it in. So, because it’s wet it doesn’t flow. It had a hard time coming out of the wagon. Then in the bin, it wasn’t heavy enough to spin the gravity spreader, so we had to level it out by hand in the bin. Just things that we found out, and good to find out before we would expand acres,” Klumb says.

Klumb says the profits-per-acre made it worth the extra effort. The family plans to plant an additional 40 acres in 2022.

Klumb’s future plans mirror those of the other South Dakota industrial hemp growers. Katie Sieverding is the Executive Director of the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association.

“The vast majority of acres were planted for grain and fiber and we have some great success stories. I think the best news that I have been hearing from everyone who has planted, is they are looking to plant more next year. Not just five to 10 acres. We’re looking at people saying, “I planted seven acres this year, I want to plant somewhere between 40 and 80 next year,’” Sieverding says.

Sieverding expects the number of acres planted to industrial hemp to more than double in 2022.

“The increase boils down to success. I think the farmers saw success this year and they’re going to increase in the future and hopefully bring some of their neighbors along,” Sieverding says.

In 2021 Sieverding says more than 1,600 acres of industrial hemp were planted in South Dakota.

The industrial hemp harvested off those acres could be marketed in many different ways. For example, the grain from Josh Klumb’s acres was sold back on contract to Willow Lake-based Horizon Hemp Seeds. The seed company will sell it to other farmers eager to plant industrial hemp in 2022 explains Derrick Dohmann, the company’s sales and marketing manager.

“I’m already getting calls from folks wanting to procure seed for the next planting season,” Dohmann says.

In addition to seed, pounds of industrial hemp grain may be sold to food processors, hemp fiber may be converted into building materials, while hemp grown for CBD oil may go into beauty products.

“It’s truly the skies the limit for this product. … Take a look around your house and basically point to something and there’s people out there trying to make it…We truly think that this crop could be like corn or soybeans after a time,” Dohmann says.