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Montana has a geographical humidity advantage for growing hemp worldwide. Our issue is value-added centers for raw materials as a state. We as a state need to be working towards hemp production for CBD oil, hemp oil and other uses. The CBD is extracted from the flower, the hemp oil from the stalk. From my limited knowledge, the hemp fiber industry is not flourishing because we don’t have the correct seed stock. Hemp fiber can be grown in dryland situations. We as a state must appeal to interests in Europe and/or internationally who have the correct seed stock for growing hemp fiber. Hemp fiber can enable hemp plastics, fiberglass, and green concrete. As a plant, hemp can help re-mineralize the soil and be hail resistant.

For fresh berries (and other products) we need a technology referred to as a “refractance table.” A refractance table moves organic material at a pace which scientifically dries a product completely while maintaining the organic biochemistry. Large winery corporations own these tables as they would be expensive for an individual investor. Refractance tables can dry Flathead cherries into a nutrient-dense dry powder if the fresh market is saturated.

Another possible cultivar that is ready to plant nearly anywhere is a “Haskap.” This honeysuckle berry bush was bred by a Dr. Boors at Saskatchewan University for 30 years. The berry flowers in the spring, fruits early summer, and the flower is frost resistant. Haskap berries have a documented antioxidant level 3 to 5 times blueberries. The Haskap bush can grow in a wide variation of 4 to 8-ph soil. Dark-pigmented fruits have been proven to provide immense organic health benefits. It grows in USDA zones 2 through 8. It is a perennial woody-bush that has a 30-year lifecycle. Dried powder from Haskap berries can be a nutraceutical superfood, food-coloring, have make-up applications, etc. The fresh berry can be eaten directly as well, made into jams or wine. Dried goods have great shelf-life and are light in trucks. In an ideal situation our state government along with our schools and private investment should work together creating new ways to empower our farmers. Value-added processing centers should be our objective, in agriculture and all industries.

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Finally, we can harvest dead-growth in our forests. Slack wood material is chunked and turned into “biocarbon.” Wood is burned smokeless in large kilns and extreme temperatures. A biologically available form of carbon, with immense surface area at a microscope scale is created. Biocarbon can act as a sponge in our soils and provide habitat for healthy soil biology. Biologically available carbon can be used for numerous applications.

All wealth comes from the land and our state government must promote new economic models that empower our communities and producers.

Rep. David Dunn, R-Kalispell, represents House District 9 in the Montana Legislature. 

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