GILTNER – Working with a flag emblazoned with “Let Farmers Grow Hemp” flapping in the distance, and dressed in T-shirts made from hemp with the words “Return of the Plant” printed on them, Jacob & Andrew Bish are sowing a new kind of seed in their fields.
Sunday’s planting marked what may be the first legal, non-university or State owned, hemp plot to be grown in the State of Nebraska since the 1950s. Before then, Nebraska farmers planted hemp under part of the Marijuana Tax Act; hemp’s fast growing time and durable fibers made it a valuable commodity during WWII, and it was used in supplies for U.S. troops and allied forces in that war.
The Bish brothers decided to grow the two small test plots this year using Nebraska Heirloom Hemp, also known as feral hemp, wild hemp, or even sometimes referred to by the slang term “ditch-weed” – all of which has been “native” to Nebraska since the 1940’s. Nebraska Heirloom Hemp is exempted from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDAG) licensing requirements under Section 4 of the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act, which went into effect on Thursday, May 30th, 2019.
The purpose of the grow is two-fold according to Andrew Bish, who said, “Our primary purpose is to identify what qualities Nebraska Heirloom Hemp may have relative to the current or future marketplace based on its flower, stalk, and seed composition.” The other reason? “Just get some hemp planted, so we can get this movement of growing hemp in Nebraska underway. Somebody has to start”.
“Hemp is the future of agriculture”, said Jacob Bish, “and the adoption of hemp in agricultural driven states, such as Nebraska, marks a real turning point in turning hemp from a specialty crop to a real commodity in the U.S.”
The Bish Brothers are planting two plots, one to research the seed and stalk characteristics when planted as a traditional row-crop, and a second plot to identify the spectrum of cannabinoids found in the flower. The first plot will be grown and treated as a traditional row-crop, which both Jacob & Andrew believe will be where Nebraska’s strength in the hemp market will come from, while the second plot will be grown in a more traditional “vegetable crop” style grow, which will require much more attention and labor. Ironically, the plots were hand-planted, and the ground was hand-tilled, just as it might’ve been before hemp prohibition in Nebraska. “It is hard work, but the research we do in these small plots here in Nebraska in 2019 has the potential to benefit research institutions around the world,” said Jacob.
Jacob and Andrew attempted to work with the University of Nebraska this year on a research plot, but that project had trouble getting off the ground. “The current executive administrators of our state government don’t appear interested in doing the right thing here, but we are, so we’ll do the right thing on our own”, said Andrew. “We are breaking zero laws, and we are laying the foundation of a huge economic boost that Nebraska farmers need. Today is about helping Nebraska farmers, the backbone of this states economy.”
“There is one person responsible for the slow progress Nebraska has made in adopting this plant as a commodity: Governor Pete Ricketts,” Andrew continued, adding that he has a personal message for Ricketts: “Mr. Governor, we’ve got plants in the ground.”