The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Hemp-A New Opportunity for farmers


December 26, 2018

We have a new Farm Bill. In the new Farm Bill, industrial hemp will no longer be considered a controlled substance. However, the USDA needs to establish new regulations although the state of Montana has regulations already established because of the Montana Hemp Pilot Program.

It requires the Montana Department of Agriculture to monitor hemp seed planting. In order to plant industrial hemp, the grower must have a 2019 Pilot Program license and work with the Montana Department of Agriculture to acquire seed. According to the Montana Department of Agriculture White Paper developed on 12.13.2018 currently you can only find seed in Canada, Italy, France and Brazil.

Industrial hemp is of the Sativa strains and they are typically taller, with long narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and they say they can reach heights of up to 20 feet, but probably not in Montana. Sativa plants cause no mind-altering effect because they have a higher concentration of CBD enzymes. Industrial hemp is used for its fiber content and its oil in food product.

The Indica strain is shorter and is usually grown indoors. Its leaves are wider and this kind of Hemp (marijuana) causes an intoxicating body buzz.

Hemp is completely different from marijuana; however, all Cannabis species were banned because of confusion of these differences and it didn't stop Washington from grouping all Cannabis species as a Schedule I Drug and banning it in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act.

It's taken over 45 years for hemp to be removed. Hemp products are used in healthy dietary supplements, skin products, and clothing. You'll be reading in all hemp material that there are over 25,000 possible applications.

Justin Loch Montana Farmers Union Membership/Special Projects Director has been travelling the state for the last two years holding informational meetings on Industrial Hemp along with the Montana Department of Agriculture. Hemp may in the future be a crop to help agriculture producers find a crop to help boast farm income.

Loch told me "There are currently three bills coming before the legislature so by mid-summer there should be some loosening of the regulations. You can grow hemp this year, but you will have to follow the Licensing and the rules and regulations of Montana Department of Agriculture for this year. After which farmers growing hemp will be under the guidance of the USDA and the DEA. You can get seed from any approved source. Currently the major source of the seed comes out of Canada from a company Hemp Genetics International. There are also some varieties coming out of Brazil which some producers out of Conrad grew.

From my knowledge, the way it stands right now you can't save seed. You have to purchase seed each year. There are different varieties, some better for fiber others better for oil. But each variety can be harvested for either fiber or oil. The oil comes from female plants from the variety better known for their CBT content.

Currently there is no place to process the fiber. Canada is considering it. There has been a lot of talk, but no creditable sources coming forward for processing hemp in Montana."

It cannot be a drought crop. You can grow it under normal rain fall, but hemp does better under irrigation. There are no approve pesticides and because it grows tall it creates a canopy that helps control weeds.

According to Justin Loch, "The greatest hurdle facing industrial hemp is markets and processing in Montana, but once those are developed here the future of hemp is endless. We'll know more this next hemp season."


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