The Rise of Wisconsin Hemp and What it Means for Farmers
Wisconsin is finding new opportunities in regards to hemp and CBD oil.
More than one hundred years ago, Wisconsin was a leading producer of hemp with nearly 7,000 acres under cultivation. Back then, it was grown primarily for rope and fiber used during both world wars. However, it disappeared soon after World War II due to a combination of federal regulations along with pests and disease which wiped out many crops.
Flash forward to 2019, hemp is experiencing a huge rebirth. According to the Hemp Business Journal, the U.S. hemp industry is currently worth $800 million and projected to reach $2 billion in just a few years. Today, the market is more versatile than ever with a myriad of uses: its seed, oil and fiber including textiles, building material, paper products, bioplastics and pharmaceuticals. One of the biggest potential markets for hemp is cannabidiol, also known as CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s touted as relief for various illnesses from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and epilepsy to sleep disorders. Hemp grown for CBD oil can be more lucrative than hemp used for grain, netting between $20 and $45 per pound depending on its quality, according to Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, WI., which is currently researching hemp production.
With this income potential, farmers around the state are showing great interest. Applications to grow or process industrial hemp have increased nearly six-fold this year to 2,100, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP), Trade and Consumer Protection. Phillip Scott, President of the Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association, notes that hemp crops give the opportunity for true economic growth to farmers who have been looking to transition into a different industry. Luckily for Wisconsin, the ideal seeding time for industrial hemp is from Mid-May to mid-June so conditions here are very favorable for this comeback crop.
Another game changer? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). For farmers who may be hesitant about making the transition, this helps move hemp more mainstream which can impact everything from industrial hemp insurance, to easing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval.
That doesn’t mean growing hemp is without its challenges.
Considerations for hemp growers
Startup includes a significant investment from the required hemp growers license and annual registration to cost of the seeds and machinery. And then there’s the mandatory state testing and lab fees to prove that hemp plants don’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the legal limit to be considered industrial hemp. While conditions are good for growing hemp, weather still poses a risk.
Cost of production and revenue will be volatile in this new industry for at least the next few years, says David Bayer, Rural Mutual agribusiness underwriter and crop hail specialist. He notes that being prepared can help prevent some issues. Here are some key things hemp farmers should know about before getting started:
- Use a reputable seed provider to buy industrial hemp or clones. Any fields testing over the 0.3 percent THC on the pre-harvest regulatory test will be destroyed, so it’s crucial to team with the right source. Here’s a list of Wisconsin-licensed seed sources and Wisconsin-licensed hemp growers who have clones for sale that passed DATCP’s pre-harvest regulatory test in 2018.
- Get the proper testing. Growers must have their hemp crops sampled by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection staff and tested by the department’s regulatory lab prior to harvest. Farmers can do pre or post-harvest testing with private labs that are certified, but this won’t replace testing by DATCP.
Find hemp industry resources.
Like with any new venture, finding a support group who can answer questions and ease concerns can be crucial. The Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, a new trade group for hemp farmers, is a helpful resource offering forums and industry educational events for farmers entering this emerging market. Insurance companies like Rural Mutual have expanded their offerings to include specific hemp growers insurance products such as crop hail and farm coverage.
For those farmers willing to make the investment and do all the necessary groundwork, hemp could provide some welcome economic relief. For more information on appropriate hemp farm insurance coverage, please contact your local Rural Mutual Insurance agent to customize a policy for your farm.
We’re here to help you choose the protection that is right for you.
Hemp may just be the answer farmers are looking for. For those Wisconsin hemp farmers willing to make the investment, this could provide economic relief.
How to Grow Hemp for CBD in Wisconsin – Step 5: Harvest
Timing is without a doubt the most crucial factor when harvesting your hemp crop. Growers must let the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection know when they plan to harvest in advance. The optimal time to harvest is when your plants test high in CBD, yet still under the 0.3% THC threshold allowed by the state. Predicting when this optimal cannabinoid content will take place is a tough task. The following tips can help give you an understanding of calculating the proper date.
Although many farmers simply harvest after a set amount of days since first sprout, the top CBD farmers will track their grow with spreadsheets developed through testing plants along the growth phase. Getting your plants tested on occasion throughout the growing season may take time and energy, but it’s sure worth the reward. The more data you collect on your crop’s CBD and THC content, the easier it will be to predict this optimal date. With some basic algebra, growers can use this data to find the slope, and apply this slope to the calendar. Once the optimal date is determined, contacting the DATCP one month in advance will give them enough notice to have your fields tested prior to this date. It’s a safe bet to pull the harvest date back a week or so once you’ve calculated it, just in case the data is off. If plants do run “hot”, or over the 0.3% THC limit, the state will force the whole field to be destroyed.
Beyond the harvest date, growers should be prepared for harvest with enough labor and equipment for the size of their fields. If your grow is on the smaller side (10 acres or less), hand cutting the plants at the root with machetes or loppers is your best bet. For large scale operations, some farmers use modified harvesters for crops such as corn to cut the plants off halfway up the stalk. This leaves the bottom half to decompose into the soil and replenishes many of the nutrients used during the grow. I hope this shed some light on the hemp harvesting process, stay on the lookout for the following step in this blog series; Drying.
How to Grow Hemp for CBD in Wisconsin – Step 5: Harvest Timing is without a doubt the most crucial factor when harvesting your hemp crop. Growers must let the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture,