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Economy

Michigan farmers say they are harvesting first industrial hemp crop since World War II

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Farmers across the state are harvesting their first hemp crop, after the plant was legalized for agriculture in 2018.

Officials with IHemp Michigan, an association of hemp processors and growers, said this year was just a test.

While farmers were issued permits to plant over 30,000 acres of the plant, officials estimate closer to 20,000 acres were actually planted.

Dave Crabill is with IHemp Michigan. He said it is an exciting time for the crop.

“We haven’t had this industrial hemp crop in Michigan since WWII,” he said. “We have an opportunity to work with this plant again and we’re figuring it out.”

Crabill said hemp can be harvested for a variety of purposes - including CBD oil.

He said the crop could also be used in alternative plastics.

“That stalk is just waste material right now,” he said. “We could take the waste material, reducing the carbon footprint, and turn it into a product that can supplement what they do for injection mold plastics to get oil-based plastics out of the system.”

Under current federal law the THC in hemp can’t exceed 0.3% - otherwise that crop needs to be destroyed. Crabill said IHemp is working with legislators to try and get federal rules changed so that amount can be higher. Even at a level of 3%, Crabill said, that amount of THC wouldn’t be an intoxicant.

Crabill said the industry is still in the very early stages.

“It’s going to be exponentially larger next year,” he said. “There are farmer collectives that are forming. They are working together to figure out this whole supply chain.”

Crabill said as the market develops he believes demand for hemp will skyrocket.

He said Michigan could be a national leader in growing and processing hemp.