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South Dakota No. 1 State in Nation for Hemp Production

By Greta Goede

South Dakota recently became the No. 1 producer of hemp fibers in the nation after being the third-to-last state to make it legal just three years ago.

"We're the highest production and the highest in yield-per-acre, both of those," said Bill Brehmer, board member of the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association (SDIHA). "We are going to try to hold that for next year. This will be our first year to dominate that category."

One of the people helping to do that is John Peterson, treasurer for SDIHA and a hemp farmer near Wakonda, about 50 miles southwest of Sioux Falls. He started Dakota Hemp LLC in 2021 when hemp was legalized, and it was the second farm in the state to grow the crop.

crop

Peterson, a fifth generation farmer, planted 40 acres of hemp the first year and has since expanded to 450 acres in the 2024 season.

He got started in hemp production after attending a meeting of people who already were growing the crop.

"Once hemp farming became legal with the 2018 Farm Bill, it came across my radar again as a reality and I saw the stories of farmers around the country growing CBD hemp but not much for the fiber or grain yet," Peterson said. "I received a random postcard in the mail announcing an industrial hemp grower’s meeting in Hudson, S.D., in early spring of 2021. There were about eight farmers and 12 presenters."

Hemp grows well in SD and helps other crops

South Dakota hemp growers bring in varieties of the plant from other countries, such as France and China, to grow the crop since it was illegal to grow in the U.S. between the 1930s and 2018.

"Well-developed hemp genetics of Canada and Europe work well in our latitude," said Ken Meyer, board president of SDIHA. "Hemp is a photo sensitive plant. The long daylight hours that we experience in the summer are beneficial to growing hemp. Our lower summer temperatures compared to Southern climate zones are a big help. And we have enough average rainfall but not too much, which can cause — especially in warmer climates — more issues with bugs or diseases."

Farmers who started hemp production, like Peterson, found the crop production in South Dakota had better results than neighboring states because of the soil and weather.

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