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Montana bill signals support for hemp in animal feed

A bill defining hemp as animal feed won't take effect until FDA authorization, but could signal growing desire for action among livestock-producing states.

Heap Of Dried Organic Hemp Seeds Or Cannabis Plant Seeds In Spoo
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Growing number of state legislators showing interest in hemp as animal feed, coalition says

A new Montana law recognizing hemp as a potential component of animal feed doesn’t authorize the immediate use of hemp feed products, but it could clear a path for expediting its approval.

Montana’s HB 396, signed into law on April 11, modified the state’s definitions of animal feed and pet food to specify that hemp may be used in either in that state, although the law won’t apply to feed for production animals until hemp has been approved for such uses by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the bill will have no immediate effect on the state’s livestock industry, it garnered support from the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

“MSGA supported this bill as hemp is a commodity readily accessible to livestock producers in the state of Montana,” Raylee Honeycutt, director of natural resources for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said in a statement. “With the bill language noting the need for FDA approval prior to use within livestock feed, we felt comfortable with supporting the concept of the bill.”

The Montana isn’t the first, and likely won’t be the last, state to pass hemp feed legislation. Hunter Buffington, executive director of the Hemp Feed Coalition, said she has been approached by numerous state leaders about whether state-level action could authorize the use of hemp in animal feed. The answer, she said, is complicated.

State action in Colorado in 2017 led directly to the formation of the Hemp Feed Coalition, Buffington said. State legislators who wanted to pass a law allowing hemp in animal feed were instead initiated a stakeholder study to explore the process, and that study group eventually became the Hemp Feed Coalition, which works to compile the research necessary to win FDA approval. The group has an application before the FDA regarding the use of hemp seed meal and hemp seed cake in laying hen diets.

States can’t necessarily supersede the FDA’s authority on what may and may not be included in animal feed. But if enough states pass legislation like Montana’s, it could send a message to the FDA about the strength of demand for hemp in animal feed — and about the frustration farmers feel about the agency’s inaction on hemp.

“I think everyone is frustrated, and that’s why there is so much excitement about this bill in Montana. To meet the FDA-CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine) requirements for approval takes a long time and a lot of resources,” Buffington said, “so we’re seeing states now trying to move forward.”

The strongest frustration, Buffington said, seems to come from states where producers are worried about the availability of feed and forage among natural disasters such as droughts, floods and fires.

“When they are concerned about having enough feed,” she said, “those are the states that have reached out to me.”

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