GREENWOOD, Wi. (WEAU)-- Hemp is a rising industry in Wisconsin and across the United States.
In October, the USDA announced interim rules for federally regulating hemp production. The rules come after the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 in which hemp was legally recognized as agriculture, an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.
The rules mandate that each hemp crop be tested by the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer for its level of THC, the active ingredient in Marijuana. If the hemp plant measures more than .3% THC, it is classified as marijuana.
For some farmers, it can be difficult to predict and control the level of THC, causing possible financial risk and loss of product.
Wisconsin hemp growers Sarah Kelley and Jamie Degenhardt have been growing the crop for about two years and ran into this problem with one of their crops after it measured out at .4% THC.
“It was a bummer because we spent all that time on that plant and to have to cut them and burn them was heartbreaking but we have to play by the rules and now we have to try and change that so other farmers don’t have to deal with it and it doesn’t become such a risky game,” Degenhardt says.
Degenhardt and Kelly say that it is more reasonable for the THC limit to be 1% rather than .3%.
“It is making it more difficult for farmers to have a crop,” Degenhardt says. “A lot of farmers had to destroy their crops and if that limit were to be increased even to 1% that would allow for that revenue not to be lost that plant can be used for something.”
The two have about four acres of hemp and grow eight different strains. They recently opened a shop in Greenwood called “Hemp Hive” where they sell their CBD products.
In addition to the yearly testing, the two had to go through an application process to grow the plant, get a permit and a license.
“It seems like variety and harvest date could be driving where THC levels tend to tick up but it is too early to tell what could be causing that,” says Jerry Clark, Chippewa County Agriculture Agent with UW-Extension.
The Hemp Pilot Research Program has only existed in Wisconsin since March of 2018 so research is limited when it comes to the crop.
Clark says about 15% of hemp crops in 2019 had to be destroyed because of the THC level. He says there is an opportunity to retest it, but for new farmers, losing crops can be a costly process.
As of November 22, nearly 800 people had shared comments with the USDA about the rule. Comments will be considered by the USDA until December 30. The interim rule will be in effect through November 1, 2021 until final regulations for hemp production are determined.
To learn more about the interim rule or to leave a comment, click here.