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Hemp bill makes it to South Dakota governor's desk for consideration

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PIERRE, S.D. — Legislation that would legalize hemp in South Dakota has made it to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk for consideration.

House Bill 1008 was passed through the Senate just after 10 p.m. Thursday, March 12, on a 30-3 vote.

Noem said she’d approve the bill if it met four “guardrails” that set forth how the state’s hemp program would be regulated, transported, enforced and funded.

The bill includes an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately after Noem’s approval.

The state will have to submit a hemp program plan to the United States Department of Agriculture before farmers can attain the state licenses required to grow hemp.

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The application review will take at least 60 days.

Lawmakers in support of the bill frequently warned that a hemp crop is not something producers should attempt to grow without extensive research and vetting of hemp seed dealers.

Hemp operations would need to be grown outdoors on at least five continuous acres. No indoor growing is allowed at this point.

All plants need to have a THC content of 0.03% or less. If tests determine that the plants exceed this level, they can be retested. If the second test shows the hemp plant still has a content over the allowed THC amounts, the crop must be destroyed.

Noem vetoed a bill that legalized hemp in the state during the 2019 legislative session for a lack of clear guidance and hemp program rules from the USDA.

The USDA has since released a rule outlining the provisions needed to approve a state or tribal hemp production plan.

Noem has already signed several pieces of legislation that are directly related to agriculture.

In other legislature news:

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Height limits for trailers carrying baled feed

The height limit for trailers hauling baled feed was changed to 15 feet after Noem signed House Bill 1084 on Feb. 27. The bill’s emergency clause makes it effective immediately.

Previous state law allowed trailers carrying baled hay that is stacked up to 14 feet and three inches high to operate on a public highway.

The legislation notes that public authorities are not obligated to make any changes to clearances on public roadways as a result of the maximum height increase.

Ag land assessments and allowable adjustments

Noem signed another law impacting owners of agricultural land in the state on Feb. 27.

The director of equalization for a county may adjust the assessed value of ag land by several additional factors and is required to document why those adjustments were made.

Agricultural land in South Dakota is assessed based on a productivity model. The director of equalization determines the capacity of the land to produce ag products, and may make adjustments to that assessment based on the land’s location, size, soil survey statistics, terrain, topographical conditions, climate, accessibility or surface obstructions.

The bill makes it a requirement that each adjustment is documented by using data from sources related to the adjustment being made. Current state law makes the documentation of an adjustment optional.

“The director of equalization shall document all supporting evidence for the adjustment determination. The director of equalization shall provide any adjustment documentation to the department upon request. The adjustment documentation must be kept in the director of equalization's office for the life of the adjustment,” the legislation states.

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Property owners who feel their ag land’s productivity is affected by any of the factors listed above can request the director of equalization to review the land.

The request is made through a form provided by the state Department of Revenue.

The law will go into effect July 1.

State Brand Board

Legislation signed into law March 9 and takes effect immediately that allows the South Dakota Brand Board to hire four law enforcement officers who will focus on enforcing state marking and branding laws and serve as brand inspectors.

The previous state law was written to state that the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office may provide investigators that have law enforcement abilities to work as inspectors for the state brand board.

Now the brand board has hiring authority of up to four certified law enforcement officers who will also be trained as inspectors.

The bill was signed by Noem on March 2.

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