Now that industrial hemp is legal to produce, thanks to the federal 2018 Farm Bill, the Montana Department of Agriculture has set up a committee to help producers research and market the crop. The first ever Montana Hemp Advisory Committee is set to hold its inaugural meeting April 3 in Helena.
That announcement Thursday from Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ben Thomas.
“When I held listening sessions in Sidney and Helena we had very good attendance and there was actually a 100-percent vote at both meetings to proceed with forming this committee. There definitely is a lot of interest out there and I’m excited about it.”
Hemp is a hardy crop that can be used in a variety of products; from fiber to food to pharmaceuticals. Many Montana farmers are also paying close attention to the popular and lucrative hemp-derived CBD market. CBD advocates say the extract can treat a variety of ailments, skeptics counter that more research is needed.
The new Hemp Advisory Committee will advise state ag department officials on various issues including creation of a Montana Hemp Checkoff program.
“So they get together and say, ‘Let’s tax ourselves, pool that money and invest in marketing, research and education.’ This is a way producers can get together, organize their resources and advance their industry.”
Thomas recently appointed nine people to the Hemp Advisory Committee, representing large and small-scale hemp producers from across the state. Thomas acknowledges excitement about Montana’s newest crop but urges interested producers to take a cautious approach in these early days.
“In previous years only a handful of states were growing hemp. Every year we have more and more states dipping their toes in. There is the possibility of oversupply. Another big concern is companies out there who are buying hemp are not the same companies that would buy wheat or chickpeas from you. These are companies that aren’t really, quite frankly that experienced in agriculture and there are different risks there.”
Thomas urges hemp producers with any questions to reach out to the Montana Agriculture Department for help.