Even though the pilot program for hemp did not go as planned for the Oneida Nation, the tribe is still optimistic about the potential of the crop in the future. The tribe as decided to chalk this up as a growing year and embrace that they are still in the experimental phase of their Wisconsin hemp journey.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Oneida nation saw the need to diversify their income, which comes primarily from gaming. The National Indian Gaming Association estimates that the industry will lose out on $22.4 billion this year, which comes to half of the expected earnings. Local casinos had to completely close earlier in the year and now are only able to open up in a limited capacity with social distancing restrictions in place.
Last year, 32 acres were set aside to produce hemp. While they diversified between the different types of hemp, none of the crops successfully went to market. Twenty acres went to grain hemp, which didn’t grow well. Ten acres of fiber hemp was planted, which did grow well, but untimely rains made it impossible to bring machinery on the land to harvest it. Then on the rest of the property, they grew hemp for CBD. The CBD crop grew well, but when it was harvested, it tested above the federal threshold and had to be destroyed.
However the tribe, despite their troubles, doesn’t plan to give up. This year they are focusing more on fiber hemp and looking to start developing the infrastructure to produce value-added products. Hempcrete is a promising material to try to produce, as well as an industrial fiber.
With the CBD market so saturated, the tribe sees an opportunity in pursuing a direction that isn’t as crowded and that has massive potential down the road.