Wisconsin official: New hemp rules won't impact 2020 growing

Associated Press
A Wisconsin official says the state's hemp program aligns very with the requirements that the federal rules are putting in place.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — New federal rules on industrial hemp production won't impact 2020 growing season in Wisconsin, state agriculture officials said.

Wisconsin producers are wrapping up their second year of growing hemp under the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's hemp research pilot program.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released an interim final rule to establish the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill directed the agency to create national regulations for growing industrial hemp, which was allowed under the 2014 farm bill. The new rule creates guidelines on record keeping, testing and licensing requirements for state and tribal hemp programs.

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Sara Walling, administrator of DATCP's Agricultural Resource Management division, told Wisconsin Public Radio Friday that the agency is still reviewing the rule to see how it will affect state regulations.

"We've certainly identified a number of ways in which our Wisconsin hemp program aligns very, very well with the requirements that the federal rules are putting in place," Walling said. "There are, of course, a number of areas within that interim rule that will require a lot more research and thought and discussion among ourselves at the department as well as with USDA."

Walling noted that the new changes won't affect growers and processors during next year's growing season. She added Wisconsin has until Oct. 31, 2020, to submit the state's hemp program plan and get approval from the USDA.

But some Wisconsin hemp growers noted they're concerned the rule will be a barrier for the industry.

Larry Konopacki, general counsel for the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, said his group is disappointed the USDA plans to take an active role in regulating state programs.

"We had hoped that the states would be provided (an) opportunity to have more control over how they would design their program. And what I see leaves relatively little wiggle room for a state to create a program that is unique to its needs and its growers' needs and its industry," Konopacki said.

He added the rule will make testing requirements for state growers stricter and gives them less options on how to make their crop compliant if it has an overabundance of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.