The Farm Bill has made industrial hemp legal, but there are still many questions surrounding the new crop.
Do you still need a license now that it’s legal?
Can you grow hemp on leased land?
Can you sell CBD oil in Montana?
Where do you go for seed?
These and many other questions will be talked about during a session on Growing Hemp during the MonDak Ag Days and Trade Show.
It’s just one of many great cutting edge sessions for this year’s annual event, which starts at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 7, with a big trade show.
A wide variety of vendors exhibit during the event every year, with everything from implement dealers and irrigation specialists to seed buyers and sellers, and much more.
The trade show is a chance to see what is latest and greatest all in one room.
Then, at 9 a.m., the lecture series begins, starting out with Growing Hemp, presented by the Montana Department of Agriculture.
Montana grew the most acres of hemp in the nation in 2018, and is poised to take hemp higher, with efforts already under way for a checkoff program for hemp.
Montana began its hemp pilot project two years ago under the 2014 Farm Bill. The state started in 2017 with a mere 550 acres. In 2018, however, they had 58 growers with 22,000 acres.
Neighboring North Dakota, meanwhile, has had a hemp pilot for a little while longer, beginning in 2016 with 70 acres of industrial hemp. That jumped to 3065 acres in 17 counties in 2017, then dipped to 2,800 acres in 19 counties in 2018.
As pilot states, both Montana and North Dakota already have a hemp plan on file with the USDA, but under the new Farm Bill both states will need to file an update.
Hemp right now is an $820 million market in the U.S., though Hemp Business Journal has estimated growth could reach $1.9 billion by 2022.
Hemp has a wide variety of uses, ranging from textiles to foods.
North Dakota researchers are among those looking at alternative uses for hemp fibers, designing biocomposites from them.
Composite materials specialist Dr. Chad Ulven, with NDSU, has developed a fiberglass substitute, for example. His composite is similar to fiberglass in terms of strength. In fact, if treated properly, it can last longer than fiberglass.
Or, if you’d prefer, it could be treated with a different resin that will allow it to be biodegradable.
“You can tailor the resin,” Ulven said. “so you can go either way.”
Among uses Ulven envisions for hemp fiberglass would be car parts. Hemp makes a much lighter product than traditional fiberglass, so cars made with it would be lighter and more fuel efficient.
A domestic supply of hemp has been missing to make such ideas more feasible, but, now that it is legal, there is still a long way to go to develop the right infrastructure and to tap hemp’s full potential.