Hemp fields will take root this summer on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska. Ho-Chunk Farms, owned by the Tribe’s economic development corporation, was among the 10 businesses and organizations awarded a state license to start hemp farming in 2019. The state received 176 applications after Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act (LB657) into law May 30.
“This is a young industry with a lot of potential,” said Aaron LaPointe, business manager of Ho-Chunk Farms. “The 2019 season will be very small scale at 5.5 acres total. The data we collect during this pilot program gives us a head start for next year.”
The 2014 U.S. farm bill authorized state departments of agriculture and higher educational institutions to grow and cultivate hemp under pilot research programs authorized by state law. Nebraska joins many Midwestern states aligning with federal law.
About half of Nebraska’s pilot program producers — including Ho-Chunk Farms — are currently finalizing agreements with the state. Ho-Chunk Farms expects to start planting in the coming weeks. The company’s participation is on behalf of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and includes working with the Ag Extension Program at Little Priest Tribal College.
This state pilot program will help the Winnebago Tribe and its entities scale up production next year by learning about local soil types, seeds and growing conditions. Ho-Chunk Farms will also be able to learn more about hemp processing and marketing.
Industrial hemp was legalized in the 2018 U.S. farm bill. That farm bill also authorized federally recognized tribes to develop their own regulatory plan for the production of hemp. The Winnebago Tribe’s regulatory plan will go through an approval process by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as required under the 2018 law.
Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s mission is to drive the socio-economic development of the Winnebago people through a world-class Tribally-owned company. Founded in 1994 with one employee, Ho-Chunk, Inc. has grown into a diversified corporation with numerous subsidiaries and over a thousand employees from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and skill sets. Our award-winning business model reinvests in the Winnebago Tribe through programs including employment, housing, education and health.