Chippewa County could become home to a new hemp-growing pilot program.
A resolution going before the County Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday, Feb. 19 meeting would, if approved, authorize the Chippewa County Extension to apply to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for a license to grow industrial hemp in test plots in Chippewa County.
The meeting was originally scheduled for Feb. 12 but was postponed due to weather.
In the explanation of the proposal, the extension cites the “increasing interest in the agriculture community to learn how to grow industrial hemp as industrial hemp may be an option to diversify farming activities.”
The project would use a plot of land at the southeast corner of the intersection of Seymour Cray Boulevard and County Highway I in Chippewa Falls for the test plots, which is currently used by Chippewa County Extension for other crop-related projects.
The research test plots for this project are estimated to be no more than one acre in size.
If the license to grow industrial hemp is approved by DATCP, the research would be done in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Agronomy Department and the University of Vermont to investigate industrial hemp variety production differences related to grain, fiber and oil production.
They also plan to study pest management research related to weed control.
Jerry Clark, agricultural educator for the Chippewa County Extension, said that they hope to provide another location to study the crop’s growth to provide information specific to Wisconsin.
“We’re getting quite a few questions about it,” Clark said. “We just don’t have a good database here in Wisconsin.”
According to the proposal, the “research gathered from this project will be used to help the Chippewa County Extension Ag Agent learn if industrial hemp farming would be a sound financial endeavor for the Chippewa County agriculture community.”
A renewed growth in hemp has been fueled by the removal of restrictions in recent years.
The Wisconsin State Legislature approved hemp farming in November 2017, which was allowed through the Farm Bill in 2014.
A number of factors still limited the growth and transportation of hemp and hemp seeds, but the 2018 Farm Bill removed those restrictions.
Prior to the clarification of federal law, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection — which regulates hemp production — noted on its website that Wisconsin law “does not explicitly prohibit or permit interstate movement” of hemp seeds and that it is done at buyers’ and sellers’ own risk.
There is a market for hemp seeds, but it has been traditionally used for ropes, fabric and paper among other products.
The rise in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) — a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis — that can be added to other products, has also raised interest in the crop nationally.
The crop itself is being seen as an up-and-coming commodity, and prior to the federal outlawing of hemp as a product in 1957, Wisconsin had been one of the world’s leading hemp growers and manufacturers.