hemp seeds
 

Wisconsin farmers who want to grow industrial hemp can now apply for a state license.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection began accepting applications late last week.

The deadline to apply for the upcoming growing season is May 1.

Federal drug law doesn’t differentiate between hemp and its cousin marijuana, but Congress included a provision in the 2014 farm bill to allow states to conduct research pilot programs into industrial hemp production, if authorized by their legislatures.

The Wisconsin Legislature passed a law that directed DATCP to write an administrative rule in 90 days.

The rule set up the regulatory framework for the pilot program. The industrial hemp program it created is based largely on those in the 31 other states with programs.

The law, as passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, requires that growers and processors pass a background check to show that the licensee has no state or federal drug convictions. Growers will pay a one-time licensing fee of $150 to $1,000, depending on how many acres they intend to plant.

Processors will also need a one-time license, at no cost.

Both must register with DATCP this year, and annually to remain in the program, with growers paying a $350 annual fee and processors, a $100 annual fee. 

State Bureau of Plant Industry Director Brian Kuhn says farmers still face challenges in finding a market. 

“We know that many Wisconsin farmers see a great opportunity here,” said Kuhn. “As we’ve been telling them all along, they need to remember that this is a research pilot program. Growers really need to know before planting that they have a licensed processor in position to accept their crop. They need to be aware of all the federal, state and local laws that might apply, and they need to talk to their lenders before they order seed.”

DATCP inspectors will sample plants from each field and variety grown and take them to the department’s laboratory for analysis. The plants can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Growers will have reporting and recordkeeping requirements and will be required to enter into a research agreement with DATCP.

Industrial hemp was a major crop in Wisconsin in the first half of the 20th century, mainly harvested for its fiber to make rope. Hemp products today are very diverse and are available in the United States, but have been largely made from hemp produced in other nations.

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