While tightly controlled, Wisconsin farmers will soon be allowed to explore a cash crop in which Wisconsin led the nation in production decades ago.
Industrial hemp licensing applications are available for Wisconsin's research pilot program. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is accepting applications with a May 1 deadline.
The U.S. Congress included a provision in the 2014 farm bill allowing states to do hemp research programs. Wisconsin's legislature asked DATCP to put a rule in place setting up the pilot program. Department spokesperson Donna Gilson says this isn't like growing corn or soybeans
. The federal government still views hemp as a controlled substance, requiring the farm field to have a GPS coordinate given to local law enforcement along with a background check of the farmer. Anyone with a drug conviction is ineligible.
She says there are restrictions on sale, as well...
"....One of the things that we want people to be aware of is that you're not going to be able to decide at the end of the growing season where your going to sell your hemp to get the best price. You're going to have to have a market lined up for your hemp before you put the seeds int the ground. If not, you may be stuck with a crop you can't sell...."
The plants have a limit of 0.3 percent THC. Hemp has the active ingredient in it's related plant marijuana, but at much lower levels than the illegal plant. The federal government made industrial hemp illegal because of it's related to marijuana.
Industrial hemp was a major crop in Wisconsin through World War II, harvested for its fiber to make rope. Gilson says the modern markets are different...
"...these days the markets are more in food products, fibers for clothing or household goods, health and beauty products. It's likely to be a very different market that it was in the 1940's and '50's...."
There's more information on the DATCP website.