Dozens of Indiana farmers ready to start harvesting hemp

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A hundred Indiana farmers are part of a research trial to help state leaders understand how to grow hemp and the economic benefit of the crop. Senate Bill 516 is awaiting Governor Eric Holcomb's signature. It sets up regulation of hemp growing.

Dozens of local farmers and students attended an informational meeting at Ivy Tech's Richmond campus Monday. Connie Neininger, an Economic Development Director with the Indiana Department of Agriculture, spoke to the audience and answered questions about this emerging venture.

Congress banned hemp in 1937 and added it to the schedule 1 drug list. However, the 2018 Farm Bill redefined it as an agricultural commodity. Jamie Petty with the Midwest Hemp Council said the misconception about hemp is that it has the same impact on a person as marijuana.

Petty said that simply is not true. THC, the substance in marijuana that makes you feel high, is far less prevalent in hemp. According to researchers at Purdue University, industrial hemp grown for feed, oil and fiber must not contain over 0.3% THC. If a person buys marijuana in Colorado, it contains roughly 18% THC.

"At this point, I don’t like using this analogy, but the best way to explain it is they’re both snakes, but one’s a rattle snake and one’s a garden snake," Petty explained. "So, they really are different."

Hubert Utt is a local organic farmer who just received his license to grow hemp.

"Something new, something new in agriculture," Utt said. "Anybody that wants to get on the internet and look up hemp, they can see the thousands of items that can be made out of the industrial fiber hemp. I know it gets put into the dashboards of some Cadillac automobiles."

Over the next year, researchers will study the growth of hemp involving 100 licensed farmers.

"We want to know how we did it and what did it cost," Petty said. "We’ve been asked all along to show economics. Well, you can’t show economics if you’re not growing and you’re not producing."

Purdue University has extensive information available about hemp farming on its website, https://dev.purduehemp.org.

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