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Business & Economics

Applications Skyrocket For Wisconsin's Second Hemp Harvest

North Dakota State University Extension Service

MADISON, WI (WSAU) -- It may be too soon to tell if Wisconsin's first industrial hemp harvest was a success in 2018, but we can tell you that interest in growing the crop has exploded. "This year we had almost 2,100 individuals and business who applied to grow or process industrial hemp," said Donna Gilson with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. "Now, not all of them will probably wind up doing that, but it still is an indicator of a lot of interest."

Last year around 350 applications were received by DATCP when the deadline to apply was May 1st. This year applications were cut off on March 1st, but paper applications could still trickle in over the next couple of days and will be processed if they were postmarked by last Friday. Part of the spike in interest came after Congress removed the connection between marijuana and industrial hemp in the latest farm bill, removing the latter from the list of controlled crops. "That removed a lot of the legal uncertainty that probably held back participation to some extent."

Gilson says her office has been getting the results of last year's harvest but because they are also processing the new applications at the same time, they haven't been able to draw a clear conclusion as to how successful it was. "It was probably [somewhat] of a success for some people, but was a real trial-and-error learning year. I don't know that anybody got rich off of last year, let's put it that way." She also expects 2019 to see a lot of trial and error as well, given how many farmers will be planting the crop for the first time.

The state also saw complications with getting the seeds to plant the hemp last year, which may have held down production. Most of the farmers harvesting the hemp will do so for the seeds, either to sell the seed to other producers or to be used as an ingredient.

Others sell the CBD that comes from the plant for various applications. Any hemp grown in Wisconsin must come from a state certified source and cannot contain more than .3% of THC, also known as the chemical in marijuana that can get users high.