Experts have said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new regulation of Wisconsin’s hemp program will be beneficial.
They stated this as growers remain skeptical.
Wisconsin’s hemp program is transitioning from state to federal oversight, simplifying administrative aspects but causing uncertainty for growers.
Rob Richard, the president of the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance revealed that after regulating the state’s hemp industry for three years, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) no longer has funding to continue the program itself.
According to Richards, the program is funded by the annual licensing fees growers must pay.
“We have seen a decline of license applications by almost 48% from last year,” Richard said. “The program is facing a shortall of $450,000.”
Richards further stated that funding concerns made the switch to USDA oversight inevitable, but the new regulations may yield benefits for Wisconsin’s hemp industry.
“One of the key benefits is that there are no more annual fees. The federal license is a three-year license,” Richard said. .
Under DATCP, growers had to pay only a one-time licensing fee, but they had to re-register and pay an annual registration fee, Richard said.
According to Richard, USDA oversight will simplify the process by “allowing growers to follow one set of rules.”
However, growers, such as Allan and Michelle Handrow of A&M Quality CBD in Burnett, worry that the switch will actually increase expenses for them.
According to Allan Handrow, under DATCP the state sent samplers to test the hemp they grow to make sure it didn’t exceed the regulated THC levels of 0.3%.
“Now we will have to find somebody that the USDA has approved to sample our hemp and we don’t know what the cost of that will be compared to what it has been through the state,” Michelle Handrow said. “It might turn out that it was more beneficial to pay the licensing and registration fees through the state.”
On their part, the Handrows, which describe themselves as a small-scale producer valuing “quality over quantity pointed out that in their first year as growers, they produced 317 pounds of product. They worry that only large-scale growers will be able to survive the switch if the price of samplers increases.
Wisconsin began its hemp program with the passage of the US Farm Bill in 2018, which allowed states to regulate their own hemp programs. According to DATCP, the program received 803 grower applications for the 2021 season. Dane County produces the highest amount of hemp, with 88 current growing locations.
Reports said Wisconsin was facing declines in agricultural production and saw hemp as a way to supplement those losses.
It further stated that the Upper Midwest is very conducive to growing hemp fiber.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Wisconsin was a top hemp producer in the country.