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Hemp farmer gets permit to use federally controlled water


    Kim Phillips loads a fifty-pound bag of industrial hemp seeds into her car after picking up a load of seeds from the Montana Department of Agriculture in Helena, Mont. After a year of battling federal regulations, Phillips has received a contract to use federally controlled water for irrigation.

HELENA, Mont. >> After a year of battling federal regulations, a Montana hemp farmer has a contract to use federally controlled water for irrigation.

Kim Phillips received the contract today, just days before she needed to plant her crop, the Independent Record reports.

“It really is an extraordinary day for hemp and the hemp industry,” Phillips said. “It shouldn’t take this long to get water for your hemp, it just shouldn’t.”

The Department of Agriculture authorized Phillips’ crop last year under Montana’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which was created under the 2014 Farm Bill.

She planted 12 acres last spring, but the Helena Valley Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation denied her water from Canyon Ferry Reservoir. The bureau bans the use of water from federal reservoirs on federally controlled substances, including hemp, which is closely related to marijuana.

The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to license farmers to grow hemp for research by state agriculture departments and universities. Phillips was issued a license to grow hemp under that program, but her crop dried up because of a lack of water.

Steve Davies, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said today the bureau decided Phillips’ planned crop this year meets an exemption in the Farm Bill that allows hemp to be grown under an agricultural pilot program or for research.

“We are satisfied with the decision,” Davies said. “It’s important that we took the time and got the decision right. We had to make sure that the program she is operating under fits the exemption in the federal Farm Bill.

“Going forward, we will continue to evaluate these on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Phillips had said she needed to plant her crop by June 1 for it to be viable.

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