Gov. Scott Walker prepares to sign a bill legalizing
hemp farming in Wisconsin surrounded by lawmakers and
supporters of the measure, including Rep. Jesse Kremer
of Kewaskum over the governor’s right shoulder, on
Thursday at the state Capitol in Madison.
Walker may have designated ginseng as the state herb when he signed
36 bills into law Nov. 30, but that isn’t the plant that has people
created an industrial hemp pilot program to be administered by
Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection.
The program will
study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp and
establish rules for growing hemp here. Current federal law only
allows for pilot programs, but the legislation provides a framework
for Wisconsin if there is a change in federal law that would allow
farmers to grow it as an agricultural commodity.
According to the
United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 11 million
adults age 18 to 25 used marijuana in 2014, but the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) says there is
a difference between hemp and marijuana.
states that hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species and
contains less than one percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the
primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The DATCP has 90
days to have a system for licensing growers participating in the
industrial hemp pilot program and come up with an annual fee. DATCP
Communications Specialist Donna Gilson said the department has been
researching other states’ programs and is in the process of
developing administrative rules.
Wisconsin is one
of 34 states that has passed some form of legislation legalizing
industrial hemp production and research.
For the 2018
growing season the DATCP will have its rules in place, but there is
also a federal component of the process to allow movement of seeds
across state lines, Gilson said.
“From the 1930s
to 1957, Wisconsin dominated hemp production,” Wisconsin Farm Bureau
Federation President Jim Holte said. “As a farmer myself, I am
excited about the opportunities this creates to capitalize on
existing markets, capture emerging markets and once again establish
our position as an industry leader.”
The last legal
hemp crop was grown in Wisconsin in 1958, but with the emergence of
synthetic fibers, is there still a market for the plant?
In 1998 Canadian
regulations allowed for the commercial development of a hemp
industry there and since then has issued more than 1,000 licenses.
Parts of the
plant are used to make textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics,
cosmetics, foodstuffs, insulation, animal feed and other products.
In addition to
Canada, hemp is harvested for commercial purposes in over 30
nations, including Japan and the European Union.
information from the Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry website,
Canada had 38,828 licensed hemp production acres in 2011 and yields
were estimated at 1,100 pounds per acre for a gross revenue
estimated to be between $30.75 million and $34.17 million, or $990
to $1,100 per acre.
industrial hemp in the form of hemp seeds, fiber, oil and oil-cake
and in 2010, exports of hemp products were valued at more than $10
million. Most of Canada’s hemp exports go to the United States.
law allows hemp products that do not contain THC to be imported,
NORML statistics state that approximately 1.9 million pounds of hemp
fiber, 450,000 pounds of hemp seeds and 331 pounds of hempseed oil
are imported annually.
information from NORML, hemp produces a much higher yield per acre
than cotton and requires few pesticides.
establishment of an industrial hemp pilot program will open new
market opportunities for our state’s farmers and create jobs in
processing and marketing,” Holte said.
Kremer (Kewaskum) and Sen. Patrick Testin (Stevens Point) were the
bill’s primary authors.
Freedom Act will serve as a catalyst for new careers and rural
hi-tech manufacturing for Wisconsin farmers and entrepreneurs who
are poised to become national and global leaders in this industry in
the decades to come,” Kremer said.