Montana Hemp Farmer Wins Contract to Use Fed-Controlled Water for Irrigation

A Montana hemp farmer has secured a contract to use federally-controlled water to irrigate her plants, the Associated Press reports. Kim Phillips had battled the Helena Valley Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for more than a year to use water from the Canyon Ferry Reservoir to water her 12-acre hemp crop.

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

Phillips’ crop is legal under the state’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program but the Bureau of Reclamation bans the use of water from federally-controlled reservoirs on controlled substances, including hemp – despite the fact that the 2014 Farm Bill allows states to implement industrial hemp research programs. Steve Davies, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said the agency is “satisfied with the decision.”

“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.” – Davies to the AP

Last year, federal lawmakers blocked a proposed budget amendment explicitly allowing hemp cultivators use of federally-controlled water. That amendment, the Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act, was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee but was removed from the final version of the budget bill.

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