Growers and processors of industrial hemp can now apply for licenses to develop the state’s first crop in almost a century.
The Department of Agriculture,Trade and Consumer Protection is accepting applications now. The deadline to apply for the 2018 growing season is May 1.
Industrial hemp is a research pilot program in Wisconsin, approved by the Legislature in November and following similar legislation in place in 31 other states.
The federal government approved states conducting research pilot programs for industrial hemp in 2014 as part of the farm bill.
Even though the industrial hemp program is not drug related, the government is still leery of the tiny amount of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, in hemp.
Growers and processors will have to pass a background check that shows the applicant has no state or federal drug convictions, and plants will be sampled by DATCP inspectors to make sure they don’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, which is about 10 times less than what’s in marijuana.
“We know many Wisconsin farmers see a great opportunity here,” said Brian Kuhn, director of the DATCP Bureau of Plant Industry.
“As we’ve been telling them all along, they need to remember this is a research pilot program, and growers need to know before planting that they have a licensed processor in position to accept their crop,” Kuhn said.
Growers will pay a one-time licensing fee of $150 to $1,000, depending on how many acres of industrial hemp is planted. Processors will also need a one-time license at no charge.
Industrial hemp has many uses, ranging from rope, textiles and clothing to its grain being used for bird feed.