HELENA – The Montana Department of Agriculture will soon ask growers of hemp whether they want to form an advisory committee on the product.
The department received a petition from 25 growers, calling for the creation of the Montana Hemp Advisory Committee. Leaders held listening sessions on the proposal last week in Sidney and Thursday in Helena.
Hemp growers and processors at the meetings overwhelmingly supported moving forward with an advisory committee. The department will now mail ballots to all licensed hemp producers in the state. If a majority votes in favor, the committee will begin putting together a plan for hemp research and marketing.
Advisory committees pool resources from the producers of a specific agricultural commodity, then use them to support research and marketing for that product. The Department of Agriculture currently administers two advisory committees for other crops: the Montana Potato Advisory Committee and the Montana Alfalfa Seed Committee. Two other committees, the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee and Montana Pulse Crop Committee, are enabled by state statute.
Department leaders say the hemp advisory committee would also provide valuable input as they develop a new plan for a full commercial hemp program in Montana.
“I think it’s important for hemp because there’s a lot of unanswered questions, and we need direction from the growers on where they want our hemp program to go,” said Ian Foley, the department’s hemp program coordinator. “We really need grower input on what the Montana program will look like.”
The federal government approved a pilot program for hemp growing in the state several years ago. Last year, Congress removed more restrictions from hemp as part of the farm bill. The state is working to create a program that fits with those updated requirements.
Leaders plan to submit their updated plan for federal approval around March 1.