North Dakota official plans trip north to get industrial hemp seeds

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Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A state Agriculture Department official is planning a trip north to get the seeds for North Dakota’s first crop of industrial hemp.

Three farming operations in three counties will be determining this year whether industrial hemp can be successfully grown in North Dakota, under a federally approved research program.

Hemp produces fiber that can be used in products such as rope, paper and clothing, and also oil that can be used in food and health products. Production has been limited because federal drug law doesn’t differentiate between hemp and its cousin marijuana.

North Dakota issued the nation’s first hemp-growing licenses in 2007, but federal drug law hampered development of the industry in the state until Congress in 2014 allowed universities and state agriculture departments to research hemp in states that permit its cultivation.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration registered North Dakota’s Agriculture Department as a hemp seed importer last August. Plant protection specialist Rachel Seifert-Spilde plans a trip to the Canadian border in a few weeks to get the seeds, after getting federal approval for the actual imports.

Canada already has an established hemp industry. Seifert-Spilde is getting 1,775 pounds of hemp seed in 10 varieties from suppliers in that country.

“I won’t have a Highway Patrol escort, but they will be contacted. I’ll have it locked up in my vehicle and the Highway Patrol will meet me back at the Capitol where the seed will be checked in,” Spilde told The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1VDwehM ).

One of the goals of the pilot program is to determine which varieties work best in North Dakota. The three farming operations will bear the cost of importing the seed and growing it. Cost of the seed is $2.50 a pound, “higher than we expected,” Spilde said.