Committee meets about industrial hemp in Pierre

PIERRE, S.D. (KSFY) - A push to legalize industrial hemp in South Dakota was front and center at the State Capitol Wednesday.

"Watching the rest of the Nation go ahead and move forward with this, and the rest of the world has been doing it forever, it's not like the United States doesn't use hemp, we're one of the biggest importers of hemp in the world," said District A State Representative Oren Lesmeister.

A Legislative Interim Committee reviewed how the state of Kentucky handled legalization efforts, and what Farmers needed from the state to begin cultivating industrial hemp as a cash crop. They also learned more about the impact that the industry has had on the state of Kentucky.

"The biggest thing we had taken away was how their Department of Ag is boots on the ground, feet, and hands in the soil, and they're working hand in hand with farmers, they're all in," said Lesmeister.

Representatives from Kentucky were in the committee meeting room to answer questions face to face.

"They've gone through the trials and tribulations up to this point, they see what works, they see what doesn't work, and that's what we have the benefit of piggybacking off of and moving forward, we don't have to go through all the growing pains they have gone through," said Lesmeister.

In attendance was Steve Bevan, the chairman for GenCanna, a Kentucky based hemp agriculture business. He's also the chairman for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

"We are in our sixth year of growing hemp outdoors in the great state of Kentucky," said GenCanna Chairman Steve Bevan.

Bevan said it was important to him to be in Pierre to help separate the fact from fiction, and set the record straight when it comes to what industrial hemp is.

"We want to be sure that the positives and the negatives, and the reality is heard from those who have actually done it before," said Bevan.

Bevan thinks the future is bright for the hemp agriculture industry.

"The hemp industry has this great potential of providing a once in a multi-generation capability for a brand new crop," said Bevan.

Committee members say by researching what Kentucky has gone through, it will help leaders make a more informed decision about whether industrial hemp has a future here.

"Every minute this industry is changing, it's at its peak right now, so ten years from now, I envision it probably at best a 10% grower in South Dakota, acres-wise," said Lesmeister.

The next meeting is scheduled for August 19.