Montana hemp farmers awarded $65 million for broken contracts

More than two dozen Montana hemp farmers have been awarded $65 million in damages from Canadian and U.S. businesses and investors who promised to pay them up to $700 per acre for hemp grown in 2018, then failed to pay.

A jury gave 25 farmers the second-highest civil judgment in Montana history, including $56 million in punitive damages and another $9 million in compensatory damages for causing “mental suffering, mental anguish, grief, worry and disappointment or the like.”

The hemp defendants found guilty of deceit and ordered to pay were:

  • USA Biofuels ($10 million).
  • Eureka 93 ($10 million).
  • Vitality Natural Health ($10 million).
  • Surety Land Development ($10 million).
  • Kent Hoggan ($5 million).
  • Owen Kenney ($5 million).
  • Corey Shirley ($5 million).
  • David Rendimonti ($1 million).

Montana farmers planted 22,000 acres of hemp in 2018, more than any other state at that time. But most of it was never used, according to the Montana Free Press, which first reported the jury award.

Most of the Montana acres were grown for USA Biofuels, which offered seed and $100 per planted acre, plus up to $600 per harvested acre, the Free Press reported.

The attorney who brought the farmers’ case, Ross Johnson of Great Falls, told Hemp Industry Daily that the wronged farmers would likely not see payment until appeals are exhausted.

An attorney for some of the defendants argued in a court filing that the boom-and-bust CBD industry, not the investors, was to blame.

“When it came time to go back into the market and sell the commodity, the market had so profoundly collapsed, there was no money to honor the commitments. Thus, about everyone began blaming each other for the collapse, but the cause is clear — it is part of the human condition,” attorney Mark Parker argued.