Industrial hemp new star crop in Montana agriculture - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Industrial hemp new star crop in Montana agriculture

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"It has taken 17 years to finally get our first crop in the ground."

In 2001, industrial hemp became legal to grow in Montana. And considering it's one of the fastest growing crops around, it's amazing how long it took to actually be planted in Montana soil.

"We have about six hundred miles that we share with our Canadian neighbors, and they're making good money on industrial hemp, whereas Montana's making not one penny," says Chris Christiaens, lobbyist for Montana Farmers Union. 

The new industry is thanks mostly to Chris, who, although it's been 17 years,  continues to lobby for Montana farmers; in fact he's so busy, the only time our reporter could get an interview with him was on the road. 

"He said, oh Chris, he said this bill goes way too far, he said you'll never get this passed," Chris remarked, as he told the story of trying to pass legislation for industrial hemp. 

Senate Bill 261 did pass, with zero amendments. And Chris says the possibilities for industrial hemp uses are almost endless.

"Bedding plant...Mortar...Road building, bridge decks...Oil seed, all cosmetics," That list goes on. 

So why did it take Montana so long to catch on? Chris says the reason is misconceptions over it's "cannabinoid" status. 

According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%.

"You could smoke a truckload and get sick before you ever got any feeling of marijuana from it."

Chad Doheny is a pulse crop farmer just north of Dutton. He went so far as to get the license to grow industrial hemp, but decided at the last minute the risks were too great. 

"There's just not enough info or consistency in what people say about it yet. I talked to insurance companies who weren't certain at all if they would insure you if you had hemp...it seems like a real easy way to lose your farm."

But now, ten different farmers in Montana are growing hemp, and so far, they report the crop is looking incredible. Chris isn't surprised, and is already looking towards the future. 

"As we see small town, rural Montana getting smaller all the time, we need to be thinking about other uses of diverse crops that can allow these small towns and the people who live in these communities to survive."

Harvesting season for Montana's hemp crop will be any day now. In Canada they tend to harvest their hemp in late September, and Chris says we usually run about a month or two ahead of them. 

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