Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is under the pump after a huge increase in interest in cultivating and processing industrial hemp in the state.
The DACTP reports it has received 1,405 applications to grow industrial hemp this year, with 1,244 from first-time growers. Additionally, 692 processor applications have been lodged, with 636 being first-timers.
It’s a big jump from last year, when it issued 248 cultivation and 100 processor applications. Hemp production results for 2018 are not yet available, but the DACTP notes some licensees didn’t register and others chose not to grow even after registering due to bad weather and other issues.
Wisconsin’s industrial hemp research pilot program requires growers and processors to obtain one-time licenses, but they must register each year they wish to plant or process hemp. Licenses cost between $150 to $1,000 depending on acreage to be put under cultivation and the annual registration fee is $350. For processors, there is no charge for a licence and a $100 annual registration fee.
Growers must plant varieties that are either on the current Health Canada List of Approved Varieties or the current OECD List of Varieties Eligible for Seed Certification. However, there are no high CBD strains on either list, meaning growers must request approval from DATCP for such varieties.
The Department is attributing the spike in interest this year to industrial hemp being dropped from the federal list of controlled substances under the 2018 Farm Bill, which has also removed the legal uncertainty surrounding growing and processing the crop.
While it’s currently taking the DACTP 6-8 weeks to process applications, it says assuming applicants don’t have a felony drug conviction they will receive a license in time to grow or process this year.
“We’re asking applicants to please be patient, and to avoid calling to check on the progress of their applications,” said Brian Kuhn, director of the department’s Plant Industry Bureau. “While we are in the process of adding staff for the program to meet some of the increased demand, right now we’re working with our existing staff to process all hemp applications”.