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Farm Bill Positions WI Hemp to Take Off

Wisconsin has the seventh most hemp-planted land in the country. (Maja Dumat/Flickr)
Wisconsin has the seventh most hemp-planted land in the country. (Maja Dumat/Flickr)
December 20, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the Farm Bill Thursday, setting the hemp industry up for a major breakthrough in 2019.

Hemp will no longer be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, opening up possibilities for farmers in Wisconsin and other states.

Badger State lawmakers allowed farmers to research hemp production at the beginning of 2018.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin has the seventh most hemp-planted acres in the country.

Perry Brown, executive director of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, says hemp farmers now will be eligible for crop insurance – a big boon for producers.

He points out farmers didn't have that assurance this year.

"The banks and the insurance companies were afraid that they would run afoul of federal rules and regulations if they allowed either insurance or loans based on growing of hemp," Brown explains.

In the bill, the U.S. defines hemp as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, meaning it doesn't have the psychoactive effects that marijuana has.

Brown says hemp is used in food such as energy bars, and hemp seed oil is used in cosmetics and other food products.

Some lines of hemp are high in a compound known as CBD, and research is looking into its possible pharmaceutical uses.

Brown says another barrier for hemp was interstate transportation, which had been banned under previous federal laws.

"It takes away those problems, in that we'll be able to freely buy and sell seed and plants across state lines without having to worry about law enforcement," he states.

Brown recommends caution with hemp because, as with any new crop, there is some risk to it.

He says farmers should start slowly and get experience before investing in it.

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.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WI