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MADISON, Wis. - Industrial hemp farming has come to Wisconsin. State lawmakers passed legislation in November allowing farmers to research production of the crop. Although the federal government still considers hemp a Schedule I controlled substance, hemp doesn't have the psychoactive effects that marijuana has.
As part of the research program, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is growing hemp to explore the best methods for farmers and will share their tips at their Industrial Hemp Production Field Day on Sept. 4.
Perry Brown, the institute's executive director, says hemp is a good fit for Wisconsin farmers' crop rotation because it has the same growing season and uses many of the same resources as corn, beans and wheat. "It's just another tool that we could potentially look at to help us be better farmers here in the state of Wisconsin," he states. "I think it fits within our farming practices and what we do." Brown says hemp is being used in food such as energy bars, and hemp seed oil is used in cosmetics and food products. Some lines of hemp are high in a compound known as CBD, and research is looking into its possible pharmaceutical uses.
Folks can register for the industrial hemp field day on the Michael Fields website.
According to the Hemp Business Journal, hemp product sales reached $820 million in 2017. However, the crop still faces hurdles because of its Schedule I classification. Brown says this year's Farm Bill could change that. "Hopefully in the Farm Bill, they have some provisions that change it to industrial hemp being listed as a farm crop, and I think that will help us with the growing and how we can manage that crop here across the United States," he states.
In the early 20th century, Wisconsin was a national leader in industrial hemp production. Brown points out that most hemp at that time was grown for the fiber and not the grain as it is now.