Governor encourages local hemp production to meet increasing demand.
Demand for newly legal hemp THC is on track to outpace the hemp supply in Minnesota, reports the Star Tribune. While that’s not great news for the people waiting for backordered delta-9 gummies, in the longer term it will be a good thing for the state’s farmers and economy.
June 18, Governor Tim Walz attended the grand opening of Hemp Acres’ new processing plant, encouraging founder and CEO Chris Levine to get his supply from Minnesota farms.
At 37,000 square feet, the Hemp Acres facility is itself nearly an acre, and is designed to process tens of thousands of acres of hemp each year.
"We need to make sure we're sourcing that from inside Minnesota,” Walz said, per the Tribune. “Minnesota is ready to lead on this.”
Hemp Acres’ plans to expand were in place long before news broke that hemp THC would be legal this summer. As Minnesota's first licensed processor, founded in 2017, Hemp Acres buys from farmers across Minnesota and the Midwest, according to the Minnesota Reformer, then processes the crop into ingredients from CBD to hemp seed oil, fiber to protein powder.
“We specialize in processing every aspect of the hemp plant, from the grain to the stalk to the botanical flower material,” Levine said at the grand opening. “This new bill that passed is just basically tapping into one more ingredient of the hemp plant.”
“It’s caught everyone unaware, but we are probably in the best position to be able to make those products and make them safe. But it’s going to take time.”
— Margaret Wiatrowski, General Manager of Hemp Acres
Hemp Acre’s general manager, Margaret Wiatrowski, said demand has exploded with the change in Minnesota law, reports the Reformer.
“It’s caught everyone unaware, but we are probably in the best position to be able to make those products and make them safe,” Wiatrowski said. “But it’s going to take time.”
It could take a year or more for farmers to meet increasing demand for the crop. After initial enthusiasm for hemp among farmers in 2019 and 2020, the number of growing licenses fell by about 25 percent between 2020 and 2021, and fell again in 2022. What was, at the time, an oversupply led to decreasing prices and, eventually, fewer hemp fields.
Gov. Walz didn’t comment directly on the new law during Hemp Acres' grand opening, according to the Tribune, but said Minnesota has the infrastructure to help hemp growers and processors succeed.
“I visited Hemp Acres in Waconia today to hear about their booming business,” Walz tweeted of the event. “Agriculture is a pillar of Minnesota's economy and our rapidly growing hemp industry will add to the foundation of our farming tradition while also expanding our economy.”
Tony Cortilet, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s hemp program manager, said Hemp Acres’ expansion would likely increase farmers’ confidence in the future of the hemp market.
“Farmers like to grow crops, but they also like to have a place to sell and make money," Cortilet said, per the Tribune. "And I know that on behalf of our hemp farmers statewide, they're going to really look at this as a boon to the industry moving forward.”