Some Montana producers who are growing industrial hemp in their rotations want to start a check-off program for promotion, marketing and research.

Prices for hemp dropped significantly last year due to a glut of the product in the world. Montana hemp producers want to find markets, and that takes funding.

Twenty-five hemp growers sent in a verified petition to the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) to create the Montana Hemp Advisory Committee, which would handle the potential check-off.

“When the petition is received by the Department, we start a public input process where we gather feedback at listening sessions,” said Andy Fjeseth, MDA. “If growers present at those meetings vote to hold a referendum, then the MDA sends out a paper ballot to all known hemp growers in Montana to see if they wish to officially establish a committee.”

There was one listening meeting held in Sidney and another one to be held in Helena Feb. 7.

The meetings are giving hemp growers an opportunity to learn about upcoming changes to the Montana State Hemp Program in light of the 2018 Farm Bill, to hear about the process of establishing a commodity advisory committee, and to provide input regarding a proposed assessment and method of collection.

“Producers present at the meetings will vote to determine whether to hold a referendum by paper ballot of all known hemp growers in the state,” Fjeseth said. “If that referendum passes, MDA will propose a hemp research and market development program for adoption by administrative rule.”

 The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, but states are still required to submit a hemp program plan to USDA for approval.

“We (MDA) are still working on our updated plan and will submit to USDA in the coming months,” he added. The listening sessions helped the MDA develop its updated hemp plan.

The industrial hemp check-off will more than likely work the same as check-offs for other crops like wheat and lentils, where producers pay so many cents per bushel when they deliver their grain to the elevator, Fjeseth said.

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