Montana industrial hemp producers can now order seed from Canada without fearing problems.

The USDA had not approved Montana’s updated hemp plan, and growers could not go ahead with ordering seeds until that happened. It didn’t seem that that was going to happen until later in the year, too late for hemp to be planted.

U.S. Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines successfully got the USDA to issue a new hemp guidance that essentially would allow Montana hemp producers to be able to order their seed.

“This welcome news will ensure producers can purchase and clean their seeds in time to get them in the ground this spring,” Tester said. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and our Montana farmers made their voices heard before we suffered from a lost growing season.”

Kim Phillips, a member of the Montana Hemp Advisory Committee board who grows irrigated industrial hemp in the Helena Valley, said she is ordering a hemp fiber variety from China this year.

“It is a premiere fiber variety that makes excellent hemp hurd, grows very tall, and has a good woody core,” Phillips said.

Phillips plans to harvest it carefully and process it using a decortication machine.

Phillips has been working with Montana Tech on fiber development, but she has plans for a new venture this year.

“We are opening a hemp processing facility in Butte, called Hemp In Process or HIP,” she said. “We plan to process hemp in several ways for many different uses.”

The Montana Hemp Board has had its second meeting and is working toward helping hemp growers in Montana plant certified seed, grow it with best management practices and harvest it on an even playing field.

They are also tasked with creating rules for hemp, so businesses do not take advantage of Montana growers.

That’s why the Montana Department of Ag and the board requires hemp growers to purchase certified seed and show a receipt for it.

Some of the rules from the MDA and Hemp Committee:

Certified seed meets a specific standard level of high genetic purity, germplasm identity, high germinating ability, and minimum amounts of other matter.

If the purchased seed variety is certified and has been grown and is a well-known and respected variety by the Montana Department of Ag and the hemp board, growers would agree the MDA would check any of the fields growing the variety 10 percent of the time.

If the purchased seed variety fulfills the requirements of certified seed but has been created with new genetics not known in the state, growers would agree to inspections 30 percent of the time.

“We do not want seed coming into Montana that would introduce insects, weeds or other inert matter into our crop fields,” Phillips said.

Later, the Montana Hemp Advisory Committee plans to create a check-off fund for hemp to be able to help with marketing Montana hemp.

Some current markets for industrial hemp:

Hemp Holding Company in Bonner, purchases organic hemp and cold-presses it into oil and pellets for wood stoves.

A hemp processing facility in Sun River in Cascade County hopes to process hemp into a CBD isolate to be turned into CBD oil.

In Conrad, a new processing facility is opening that creates CBD products like drink mixes and more.

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