Could industrial hemp be a viable crop for Wisconsin farmers? It was in the past, and now some state lawmakers think it could be again. Legislation from state Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and state Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) legalize production of the versatile crop, with permits issued by the state Ag Department.
The 2014 federal farm bill cleared the way for hemp research programs, and at least 30 states are allowing the crop, including Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.
“I think we can be a leader on this, and that’s what I’m hoping to get with this bill,” said Kremer.
Industrial hemp contains extremely low levels of THC, which is what delivers the “high” of marijuana, which is the same plant species. Nevertheless, in 1970 federal drug law classified plants with any THC as an illegal substance.
Kremer said his legislation will pave the way for production and manufacturing, once the federal government “opens the doors wide,” which he expects to happen soon.
“Farmers are struggling with current cash crops. The markets are down on most of the commodities that are produced here in Wisconsin,” said Nick Levendofsky with the Wisconsin Farmers. “I just think it’s really important that we look at other commodities that could help, especially at times like right now, when folks are struggling.”
Levendofsky said groups representing the state’s ag sector are supportive of industrial hemp. Kremer expects his colleagues will hear about that support during the annual Ag Day at the state Capitol next week.