PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. (AP) — An eastern Nebraska grower has added industrial hemp to its crop list as it searches for ways to reap more profits from its land.
Annette Wiles drove to Colorado recently and paid $5 apiece for 72 plants in each of four varieties that she's since had planted in a Plattsmouth greenhouse. She and her husband, Bruce, own Midwest Hop Producers. It's one of 10 growers randomly selected for the first year of the state's Hemp Cultivation/Processing Research Program, which was established by a bill signed into law this past spring by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.
A provision of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop. THC is the compound that gives marijuana its high.
The Wileses had been growing corn and soybeans, but Annette Wiles told the Lincoln Journal Star that there's not a lot of money in those crops these days. That's why she and her husband looked into specialty crops such as hops, used mostly to flavor beer.
Now they're learning how to grow hemp.
"We learned a lot of lessons with hops that we'll be able to bring over to what we're doing with hemp," she said.
The Wileses have consulted with University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomy professor Ismail Dweikat, who has been doing research on the cannabis plant. He said that although many products can come from hemp, its CBD oils are the most profitable.
He speculated that grown outside under ideal conditions, with high CBD, hemp could gross up to $100,000 an acre. By comparison, an acre of corn yielding around 190 bushels would sell for about $725.
"So there is a huge potential for the farmers in Nebraska ... to start growing hemp for CBD," he said. "I am excited to see the first legal hemp farming in Nebraska here."