As part of the most recent Farm Bill, Congress approved removing industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

In addition, federal oversight was moved from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Even though federal oversight was moved from the DEA to the USDA, we still need to write a plan for our Montana industrial hemp program,” said Ian Foley, hemp program coordinator at The Montana Department of Agriculture.

Foley said he is working with the MDA team on it now, and will have it to the USDA by March 1. Federal authorities will review, approve or deny it within 60 days,

“It will include how the program is funded, the seed varieties we will accept, the Montana hemp program and what it will look like,” he said.

 It will also specify that any companies buying or contracting industrial hemp from Montana hemp farmers must have a license to do so from the MDA.

“Any company wanting to buy hemp from Montana farmers must have a license first from the MDA,” Foley said, adding they want to protect hemp growers.

Some industrial hemp varieties were planted at Montana State University at the Bozeman campus and at Central Ag Research Center at Moccasin. 

At CARC, Pat Carr, superintendent, planted five varieties in 2018 to test for canopy height, thousand kernel weight, test weight and yield. Picolo, Katani and Grandi are cultivars from Hemp Genetics International, a seed company in Canada that provided partial funding for the trials. The trials also included the Canadian varieties CFX-1, and CRS-1.

“Our hemp variety trials are about finding agronomic practices to identify what varieties are best adapted to growing conditions in Montana,” said Carr.

The top yielding cultivar was Grandi at 7.7 bushels/acre or 336.4 pounds/acre. Grandi had 20.2 inches; 11.8 thousand kernel weight and a test weight of 34.8 pounds/bushel.

“The trials help us find out which varieties grow best in Montana,” he said.

Foley said they would also be working on rules and regulations that the Montana Hemp Advisory Committee wants put in place. A checkoff is planned and will be discussed among future hemp committee members to fund Montana hemp marketing and promotion.

“With Montana being the nation’s number one hemp-producing state, having

a committee to advise on research, marketing and education efforts will be a big benefit to our growers.” said Ben Thomas, MDA director.