FORT BENTON, Mont. – A new plant to process hemp for grain is under construction and nearly ready to go in Fort Benton, Mont., north of Great Falls.
Called IND Hemp, the company has been licensed and bonded through the Montana State Department of Agriculture as a legal commodity dealer.
Ken Elliot, president of IND Hemp, has been working with farmers in 2019 to contract acres.
“We have contracted with some 20-40 farmers,” said Elliot. “Right now, we are buying grain hemp only, no CBD.”
They are contracting for certified hemp oilseed varieties to be processed in their food grade facility, both organic and conventionally grown hemp for grain.
Next spring, he plans to continue contracts with farmers.
Farmers agree to grow certain approved varieties, such as two or three from Hemp Genetics International of Canada and X-59, a Canadian variety that is also grown for certified seed sale in North Dakota.
Elliot has cleared out a large building in Fort Benton for the oilseed processing facility, and purchased some cold press machines.
“They are the latest machinery, and should do a good job of pressing hemp for grain into oil,” he said.
IND hemp plans to turn that oil hemp protein cake, and hemp powders, and it will all be food grade.
“We should be ready to start pressing hemp by December,” Elliot said. “Definitely, we’ll be starting up by the first of January 2020.”
In addition, Elliot is working with universities on livestock trials using hemp as supplemental feed. He wants to sell hemp in pellets, but needs the approval of the livestock industry and the state veterinarian.
“You can eat hemp yourself, but you can’t feed it to your livestock, but we feel hemp would be an ideal supplement to increase crude protein levels in feed for cattle,” he said.
Elliot’s home is in Wolf Point, Mont, but he travels back and forth to Omaha, Neb., his second home.
Elliot has been all over the country, involved in several industries.
He has worked in the oil industry and in environmental areas, cleaning up sites after oil and chemical accidents.
“I am involved in a Montana oil refinery in Wolf Point on the reservation, but we are still working on getting that going,” Elliot said. “They wanted to use Balkan crude for the oil refinery.”
Elliot wants to help the tribes in northeastern Montana and other places develop industries to help them prosper.