Wisconsin farmers applying to grow industrial hemp

Nearly 260 farmers have applied to grow industrial hemp following a new state law legalizing the growing of the plant last fall.

Farmers across the state have sought permission from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection over the last two months to both grow and process industrial hemp.

In all, 359 applications were submitted by the May 1 deadline, with 102 individuals interested in getting approval to process the plant, according to preliminary numbers from the agency.

DATCP spokeswoman Donna Gilson noted the figures could increase over the next couple days, as the agency continues to receive mailed-in applications that were postmarked April 30 or May 1.

Under state law, those interested in growing or processing industrial hemp need to pass a background check. In addition, growers have to pay a one-time licensing fee of between $150 and $1,000, depending on the acreage, while processors also need a license from DATCP, though there’s no cost associated with it.

Applicants also were required to provide GPS coordinates of the land where the crop would be grown or processed.

The new state law comes after the federal government in 2014 approved a bill to give states the ability to run hemp research programs.