Wisconsin gains traction in face of hurdles

Wisconsin gains traction in face of hurdles

This week, the Wisconsin State Assembly will vote to make its preliminary hemp agriculture program permanent after this, the first federally legal season for growing the crop.

Industry leaders and others testified before Tuesday’s planned vote to cement the Wisconsin plan. The official rules will clarify THC testing and include provisions for a potential grower-processor network across the state.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the bill entering the assembly Tuesday was already voted for 31-2 by the legislature. If approved, the governor would need to sign it.

While industrial hemp is legal at the federal level, local and state level regulations are still disparate.

In Wisconsin, the state approved a motion for a new pilot program in 2017, the State Journal said. [1]

The Virginian-Pilot reported that even though farmers were excited, an early surge of winter weather devastated some farms as owners were ready to harvest. [2]

Jonathan Baker told the Virginian-Pilot that as much as a third of his hemp crop froze in the early snows of Wisconsin, even after he and his team harvested over the course of 14-hour days. “It’s beautifully sad,” Baker said. [2]

According to the National Law Review, 850 growers in Wisconsin planted over 5,000 acres of industrial hemp in 2019. [3]

Of this, 13% was seized by government authorities overseeing the pilot program because samples revealed levels of THC exceeding 0.3%, the NLR reported. This was especially difficult for growers because the seeds farmers used were approved by regulators beforehand. [3]

Under the new legislation, “safe harbor” provisions would allow farms to have hemp crops that test as high as 0.5% THC without being considered negligent. [3]

Nearly 2,000 growers and processors were registered and approved under the pilot program in Wisconsin for the 2019 growing season, the first allowed since the crop was legalized in the U.S. in the 2018 Farm Bill. [3]

Many of the initial adopters of the crop were keen on promises of high returns on their efforts, so seizures and crop failures due to weather can be especially harmful for young entrepreneurs and those inexperienced in hemp.


[1] https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/assembly-to-take-up-hemp-regulation-bible-week-resolution-in/article_ef2d7f57-e834-5da2-8043-51f0dfaab282.html

[2] https://www.pilotonline.com/business/marijuana/sns-wisconsin-hemp-industry-risks-20191111-wsowyuo45ncnblibp77753vmfq-story.html

[3] https://www.natlawreview.com/article/hemp-update-wisconsin-opens-2020-growing-season-applications-while-usda-issues