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2020 Key Year for Learning about Hemp Crops

Wisconsin began a hemp pilot program in 2018, but a new law recently was signed that made the program permanent. (pewtrusts.org)
Wisconsin began a hemp pilot program in 2018, but a new law recently was signed that made the program permanent. (pewtrusts.org)
January 8, 2020

EAST TROY, Wis. -- Wisconsin farmers are eager to produce more hemp crops, now that a law bolstering the state's program is in place. One agricultural research group says the crop has a lot of potential, but more work is needed.

Last fall, Gov. Tony Evers signed a law expanding Wisconsin's program that allows hemp farming and bringing it in line with federal law. Experts have said hemp's popularity could help a lot of struggling farmers.

Perry Brown, executive director of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, said his group supports the law and what it could mean for farmers -- but this year, they need to learn more about how it can work in Wisconsin.

"We're looking at how do these lines, developed in other areas, how do they grow in the state of Wisconsin?" he said. "What are their agronomic needs? What's their fertility needs? What types of soils do they grow in the best?"

Brown said Wisconsin might be different than other states where growing patterns have already been established. Hemp's popularity is largely due to demand for CBD, the legal, therapeutic compound extracted from the cannabis plant.

In addition to research, Brown said the ag industry in Wisconsin also needs to do a lot of prep work so the crop could be produced more efficiently.

"We don't have a lot of processors and a lot of markets for the end product, which would be the CBD," he said. "So, that's our biggest problem."

Despite concerns about an undeveloped market for CBD in Wisconsin, banks are starting to take notice. A December survey by the Wisconsin Bankers Association said nearly half of the respondents who haven't provided banking services to hemp-related businesses plan to do so in 2020. That survey is online at wisbank.com.

Disclosure: Michael Fields Agricultural Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Rural/Farming, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI