With Gov. Scott Walker signing a bill legalizing hemp production in Wisconsin, farmers wait for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to create hemp regulations and permitting processes before deciding if hemp is a crop they want to grow.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors members Joe Bragger and Adam Kuczer are excited about the opportunities hemp can bring to farmers in diversity, changing up crop rotations and cover cropping. Hemp could also provide an opportunity for transitioning to organic since it chokes out weeds well.
While Bragger looks forward to Wisconsin farmers being able to supply some of the $600 million a year in hemp that's been imported into the U.S., he reminds farmers to proceed carefully.
The Wisconsin hemp industry began in 1908 with nine acres in Mendota and Waupun, according to a history of hemp on hemphasis.net. By 1915, acreage rose to 400 and by 1917 hemp was grown on 7,000 acres. In 1918, the leading hemp producing counties were Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Dodge, and Racine.
Wisconsin ranked with Kentucky and California as the most important states for growing hemp for fiber in 1918, according to a May 1918 report on hempology.org.
While hemp had firm rooting in Wisconsin in 1918, hemp began to decline in the 1920s, according to hemphasis.net.
Read more from the Wisconsin State Farmer.