Locals learn about growing industrial hemp in our area

Published: Jan. 30, 2018 at 9:50 PM CST
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Tuesday night, people came in from all over the area, even 3 hours away, to learn about a new growing market to help farmers earn more money.

“We’re talking about a crop that's potentially able to make farmers a lot more money than what they’re used to making,” said Ken Anderson, the president and founder of Legacy Hemp, the first provider of certified hemp cultivars.

A seminar at Chippewa Valley Technical College had farmers gathered form near and far to learn about an up and coming market in Wisconsin: growing industrialized hemp.

“Commodity prices are really depressed right now,” said Joe H. Bragger, a farmer from Independence. “Dairy prices, corn, beans, all of the things we typically grow. Industrial hemp is going to open up new markets for us and also diversify rotation.”

You may be thinking of the word "marijuana,” but industrialized hemp is nowhere near the potency of the plant. In fact, to be considered industrial hemp, it has to contain .3 percent or less of THC.

“Mainly right now the market is in the food grade aspect,” Anderson said. “Hemp does really well in Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 and it also is easily digestible plant protein. In the food market these days, plant protein is kind of a hot topic and there’s no better plant protein than industrial hemp.”

The U.S. imports roughly $600 million of hemp products annually, but we can't legally grow it, unless it’s under a pilot or research program. Wisconsin is the 34th state to authorize a hemp research or pilot program, and it actually got its roots not too far away.

“The promotion of industrial hemp actually came out of Buffalo County,” Bragger said. “It was really neat to follow the process from a county through the state and receive this signed from the governor when he passed Act 100 in November.”

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will have until March 2nd to write an emergency rule spelling out the details of the program, including requirements for growers.

The DATCP is currently working on getting the rule written. They said requirements such criminal background checks, GPS coordinates for all hemp fields and licenses will be required. There will also be an initial fee of $150 dollars or $5 per acre up to $1,000 dollars, whichever is more. They said they will maintain participant confidentiality except for law enforcement agencies. They are also not limiting the amount of farmers or number of acres being allowed to grow industrial hemp, which the DATCP will be requiring field tests which they will conduct.

The biggest take-away Anderson said is to make sure you have a buyer!

“Hemp is not something you can just bring to your local elevator and say, ‘hey, what’s your cash price for hemp today?’ So you have to have a buyer lined up.”