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Montana hemp farmer harvests first crop after water battle

October 8, 2018

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana hemp farmer has harvested her first crop after a year of battling federal regulations to gain access to irrigation water.

Kim Phillips planted about 30 acres (12 hectares) of hemp in early June in Helena Valley, yielding about 20 acres (8 hectares) of the crop this month, the Independent Record reported Friday.

The Helena Valley Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation denied Phillips access to irrigation water from Canyon Ferry Reservoir in 2017. The bureau bans the use of water from federal reservoirs on federally controlled substances, including hemp, which is related to marijuana.

Phillips had planted 12 acres (5 hectares) last spring, but the lack of irrigation water resulted in the crop’s loss, she said.

In May, Phillips was granted a contract to use federally controlled water after the Department of Agriculture authorized Phillips’ crop under Montana’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which was created under the 2014 Farm Bill. Phillips was given a research exemption because of her work with Montana Tech in Butte.

Despite the legal battle to grow her crop, Phillips said the harvest went as well as she could have hoped.

“It helps set a precedent for the future,” Phillips said. “This whole thing got way bigger than I could have imagined.”

Hemp has dozens of practical applications, from making clothing and rope to uses in building materials and chemical spill cleanup.

Some of Phillips’ hemp will go to Montana Tech, where it will undergo strength testing against other natural fibers. The rest will be put in bales and sold.

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Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com

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