The Indiana Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Study Committee took a field trip Monday visiting Purdue University’s Hemp research site and talking with experts about the plant.
Industrial hemp is still illegal to grow in Indiana outside of research. However, dozens of Hoosiers told the committee they think industrial hemp should be legal to be grown in-state.
Indiana Hemp Industries Association Executive Director Jessica Scott says the hemp market is continually growing.
“$820 million hemp market in 2017,” says Scott. “That market is projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2022 and that’s the United States hemp market.”
Neighboring state Kentucky invested in the hemp industry a few years ago and has been reaping the benefits.
For farmers, industrial hemp could expand their crop portfolios. Warsaw corn and soybean farmer Don Zolman says with the tough market he would like to be able to diversify and add hemp to his production.
“To have an alternative crop to be able to produce, to add to the income stream of Indiana farmers is vital at this time,” says Zolman.
Then there are business that need hemp for products. Matt Alvord is vice president of Angola, Indiana-based health food company Foods Alive. He says it hurts him to not be able to purchase hemp – which his company already makes into food – closer to home.
“Hemp makes up about 20 percent of the sales that we have,” says Alvord. “Be happy to tell you that dollar amount is in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. We are forced to purchase all that raw material from Canada.”
He adds that his company has started to be able to get some product from North Dakota.
Last session, a bill that would have permitted industrial hemp growing failed in the state Senate. Summer study chair and Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston) says he recognizes there’s a demand for hemp in Indiana.
The committee’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for the first half of September. The final report is due within the first week of November.