MADISON, WI (WRN-WSAU) — Farmers looking to add

MADISON, WI (WRN-WSAU) — Farmers looking to add industrial hemp to their fields need to start doing their homework and talk with the state before they try to plant crops.

Wisconsin has started a program that allows for farmers to grow industrial hemp on a limited, pilot basis. Melody Walker with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says there’s a lot of planning that needs to be done first, and a lot of communication that needs to happen with state officials.

Farmers will need to take part in a application process with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection that includes a background check. «Farmers can’t have any drug-related convictions if they’re going to plant hemp.» Farmers also need to register exactly how much acreage they plan to grow.

Farmers also need to be sure they’ll have a buyer for their product that is inside state lines. Walker says that transport to producers outside of Wisconsin is still illegal. «Because it’s such a new crop to Wisconsin, we don’t have a lot of processing plants ready to take crops from people, so that is really an important piece if they plan to market the crop.»

Farmers also have to get their seed for their crop from a list of certified vendors to ensure that the hemp they’re growing isn’t going to be chemically active and classified as marijuana.

When it comes time to harvest, producers will need to get in touch with the state again so that experts can come out and test their crops to ensure that they have low enough levels of THC, the active chemical in hemp, to qualify as industrial hemp and not marijuana.

Federally, any hemp is still considered a Schedule 1 drug, even if new laws in Wisconsin recognize the plant as an agricultural product.

Farmers have until May 1 to sign up for the pilot program. You can find out more online at https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/IndustrialHemp.aspx.