SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Last year the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska became one of 10 groups given approval to grow hemp. Until now COVID-19 has slowed down the process to fully start the project this year.
“From the very beginning the Winnebago Tribe has been hopeful to be at the forefront of the hemp production as an agriculture and marketable resource,” Victoria Kitcheyan, a member of the Winnebago Tribal Council, said.
She said the tribe has had to shift resources to focus on the health and wellness of the community.
But, Kitcheyan said last week the United States Department of Agriculture granted the tribe primary regulatory responsibility for hemp production within their jurisdiction.
“With the exciting news with the hemp plan being approved, I think we’re ready to pick that effort back up and really put some concentration on that,” Kitcheyan said.
“We have the land base to really take on a huge operation in many different agriculture sectors and we thought maybe hemp was one of them,” Aaron LaPointe, business manager for Ho-Chunk Farms, said.
He adds that not only is hemp a great plant for building soil but there are many ecological benefits to growing it on the reservation.
“We see it as a way to diversify. We see a lot of job creation not only on the production side but on the processing and manufacturing side,” LaPointe said.
Kitcheyan said being able to self regulate allows an unrestricted revenue stream to go directly back into the tribes programs and services.
“It’ll give us the ability to expand some of our services and that directly impacts the livelihood of our tribal members and that’s our ultimate goal,” Kitcheyan added.
She said a lot of administrative work still needs to be done, like creating a regulatory body for the project. Then the tribe will decide the scale and scope for this years production.