With 2,500 acres of hemp already planted in Wisconsin, the growing rise of hemp farming sparked a discussion at a February 28 Wisconsin Towns Association Meeting about the potential for hemp farming in Polk County. 

With Wisconsin starting to take this type of farming seriously, WTA Chairperson Doug Schmidt asked for a Wisconsin Farm Bureau representative, Abbie Testaberg, to present on the specifics of what farmers should expect if they venture into hemp farming.

Testaberg operates an 18.5 acre hemp farm with her husband in River Falls, Wisconsin. Before this undertaking, Testaberg owned a restaurant for ten years, where she met her husband. Her husband introduced her to the farming industry and the lucrative path of farming hemp. She now makes it her mission to “walk a bridge trying to help people understand the hemp tradition and eastern application for the plant.” 

The 2014 Farm Bill makes the distinction between marijuana and hemp clear; although they come from the same plant genus, cannabis, marijuana contains .3 percent or more THC and hemp holds .3 percent or less THC. Testaberg describes THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, as the plant chemical that “gets you high.” 

Generally, hemp is thought of for use in rope, fabric, and auto parts but Testaberg breaks the plant down into many components to clarify all of its practical uses. The stalk may be used for rope and fabric, the interior may be converted into concrete and bio fuel, the leaves may be made into bedding and food, the seeds contain amino acids and protein and may be formed into milk, olive oil, and shampoo. 

The female flower, when not fertilized, produces excess medicinal oil used to decrease inflammation, anxiety, redness, and seizures. This oil, known as CDB oil, is in high demand and costs a lot less to make than some other medicinal oils. This is why so many farmers are beginning to fall under its charm. 

Wisconsin’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, under terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, is likely a first step in legalizing the long-term farming of industrial hemp. 

Of the program, Testaberg said, “We are lucky to have one.” 

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, DATCP, regulates this program, ensuring that farmers are following program regulations including registering each year that they intend to plant and process industrial hemp, pass background checks, and pay fees. 

As participants in the research program, growers and processors are required to report their research plans along with their annual registrations, and to file research reports for each growing season.

Applicants cannot have drug related felonies and before harvest each year, DATCP has to test plants for THC levels lower than .3 percent. 

Unfortunately, applications are closed for the 2019 season as of March 1, 2019. However, with less than a year until applications are accepted again, those interested in hemp farming have time to do their own research to determine if this new territory is for them. 

DATCP’s website holds much of this information as well as hemp consulting agencies including Testabgerg’s, Whole Plant Technologies. She may be contacted at abbie.testaberg@gmail.com

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