When Neil Reiten grew hemp this year for the first time on his North Dakota farm, he knew the crop would get his neighbours talking.
He also knew it would attract the attention of the U.S. government, specifically the FBI.
Reiten and his employees were fingerprinted and put through background checks and FBI officers gave them a direct warning.
“They straight out told us, ‘we will be watching you very closely.’ ”
Reiten was one of about 35 North Dakota farmers who participated in a pilot project to grow industrial hemp in 2017. Those farmers seeded more than 3,000 acres of hempseed, up dramatically from the five North Dakota farmers who were limited to 15 acres each in 2016, the first year of the pilot.
Reiten applied to grow 400 acres, and state officials gave him permission to seed a more precise amount: 312.5 acres.
“I didn’t even question it. I was granted the opportunity and took what I could,” said Reiten, who farms 10,000 acres in Petersburg, N.D., growing corn, soybeans, canola, wheat and other crops.
The North Dakota farmers in the pilot project had to jump through extensive regulatory hoops be-cause hemp is still treated like a controlled substance in the United States, thanks to its association with cannabis.
In Reiten’s case, the hassle was worth it because he wants to add another crop to his rotation and explore other ways to add value to his farm business.
“The world is full of corn and beans and wheat,” he said. “I personally was … seeking something new and sustainable, and hemp is just really exciting.”
Hemp may be an experiment for other North Dakota producers but Reiten has already turned his crop into a new business called Legacy Hemp.
He imported the hempseed variety