The hype surrounding the legalization of industrial hemp is undeniable but if you grow it, what do you do with it?
“The biggest thing right now is markets, where can producers once they harvest a crop, where can they take it? And processing there is lack of processing in Montana,” says Justin Loch, Montana Farmers Union Membership/Development Director.
Unfortunately when it comes to processing hemp is far different from other Montana crops.
“Hemp is such an oily crop that you get so much build up on any contact surface,” says Andrew Bishop, owner of AG Processing Solutions Inc.
Bishop expects there will be a major influx of processors in Montana but right now most interest is focused on the CBD isolate, an oil that is used in a number of health applications.
“As a byproduct of that CBD isolate you can have the hemp seed, the hemp protein, you can have hemp oil, you can have the hemp fiber and there’s so many different ways to use it that I would hope that people in the future look at different ways to use the hemp and not just focus on the CBD isolate because I think that would be a little shortsighted,” says Bishop.
He’s not the only one looking beyond CBD isolate, Bozeman architect Kirby Hancock sees a material known as hempcrete as building material with a lot of promise but nowhere to process it.
“There’s nothing in place for the fiber side of it, the stalks side which is what I am interested in for construction. So that’s why I want to promote that because there’s a lot of potential not only for construction but hundreds of other industries that use the whole plant,” explains Hancock.
Whether processing CBD isolate or any other product, the interest is growing and if processors put their roots in Montana, local economies could grow with it.
“You know a typical hemp processing facility, it depends on what scale you want to be, but you could employ 10 people and in rural Montana that’s huge,” says Bishop.
This last year Montana became the country’s largest producer of hemp with 22,000 acres.
Reporting by Joe Huisinga for MTN News