State News

Wisconsin’s farms are open for hemp production

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law Thursday that will allow Wisconsin farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Image By: Max Bayer

Wisconsin farmers will now be able to grow industrial hemp after Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law Thursday that had previously passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and state Senate.

Federal law generally outlaws the growing and possession of cannabis but states are allowed to create programs that research and grow industrial hemp since it is non-psychoactive, as opposed to marijuana.

Wisconsin was the country’s leader in the production of industrial hemp. With the new legislation to reinstate the business, Wisconsin will be joining over 30 states that have already passed similar legislation allowing hemp cultivation.

Hemp will not contain over 0.3 percent THC — the chemical in marijuana.

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, is expected to create new jobs, as well as provide another option for farmers who may have been struggling with the low prices of corn and soybeans.

Allowing the production of industrial hemp will also stimulate Wisconsin’s organic market since industrial hemp is very popular in that market and could also lead to positive environmental impacts, lawmakers say.

Agriculture experts are also optimistic about reintroducing hemp in the state.

“Hemp is a good alternative crop. Why couldn’t we be the world’s largest hemp producer? I think it could be something that could really help Wisconsin if we have the right infrastructure to implement it,” said Paul Mitchell, an associate professor of agriculture and applied economics at UW-Madison.

“It would leave a better carbon footprint than some other crops,” he added.

The number of farms growing hemp for profit will explode by 2020, according to Rob Richard, senior director of government relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

There are already U.S. processors that are planning on an opening processing facility in Wisconsin in order to prepare for the 2018 harvest of hemp, hemp seed producer Ken Anderson told the Wisconsin State Journal. 

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