DATCP Takes Nearly 2.1K Hemp Grower, Producer Applications

State Agriculture Officials Seeing Dramatic Increase In Applications To Grow, Process Hemp

Industrial hemp
Dylan Lovan/AP Photo

Wisconsin agriculture officials say they’re seeing a dramatic increase in applications to grow and process hemp.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced Monday that 1,405 individuals or businesses have applied to grow hemp in 2019, including 1,244 first-timers. The agency has received 692 processor applications, including 636 first-timers.

The boon in hemp farmers comes as the state’s dairy industry suffers from low milk prices.

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“The people in Wisconsin have been looking for a different industry to roll into. This one gives the perfect opportunity for true economic growth,” said Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association President Phillip Scott. “We have to find a way to get their product to market and we are working on those avenues to get that done.”

Scott, who is 29, turned to growing hemp after getting hurt on the job as a delivery driver for UPS. This year he will plant 17 acres in southern Dane County near Belleville.

Any hemp grown is tested by the state to make sure THC levels are not above 0.3 percent. DATCP officials said in the first season 21 of 303 samples taken from farmers failed the first test. Two farmers sought a second, $250 test but often THC levels were higher later in the growing season and the crop had to be destroyed.

“This is a pilot program. There certainly is a learning curve,” said DATCP spokeswoman Donna Gilson. “What varieties produce the THC levels that you need. What growing conditions, agronomic practices. That’s part of what people are learning is how to produce that desired THC level.”

The Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association recommends ways growers can avoid going over the limit.

“Doing the proper testing and knowing your genetics and your seed provider comes in handy in trying to prevent those issues,” Scott said.

The deadline for online and emailed applications was Friday. DATCP is still accepting mail applications if they were postmarked by Friday.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in November 2017 that allowed growing and processing hemp. DATCP issued 247 grower licenses and 100 processor licenses in 2018. The agency says production totals aren’t available yet.

“In 2019 the big question mark is processing and getting product to market,” Scott said. “It’s an exciting time in Wisconsin for hemp.”

Hemp production was made possible nationwide as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Wisconsin is checking to see whether it has to change state law to align it with federal provisions in the Farm Bill, Gilson said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include original reporting from WPR.

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