082119_dr_hemp_7a (copy)

An industrial hemp crop was grown on UW-Extension test plots in Chippewa County in 2019. DATCP is considering turning over the state’s hemp program to the USDA.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is considering “relinquishing” its hemp program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said DATCP Secretary-designee Randy Romanski.

Romanski, speaking during a July 15 ag media call, said that a decision has not been finalized regarding which agency will oversee the hemp industry in the state. There are multiple reasons turning over the program to the USDA is being considered.

First, Romanski said that the state statutory directive is that the hemp program should provide the greatest possibility for participation and engagement in the industry. Therefore, DATCP is considering whether the department’s management of the program or federal management of the program would be in the best interest of hemp growers.

DATCP is also factoring in industry preference when it comes to making a decision. For example, the current state program charges license fees that aren’t there on the federal level, which may be preferable to those in the hemp industry.

For the department there are also fiscal and staffing components of whether the state has the funds and staff available to successfully implement the hemp program, Romanski said.

With hemp interest facing a sharp downturn this year — something Romanski said is affecting other states as well as Wisconsin — the state is not collecting the same amount of revenue that is used to fund administration of the hemp program.

As of July 1, DATCP data shows that 816 hemp growers and 482 hemp processors applied for licenses in the state this year, for a total of 1,298 applications. In 2019 and 2020 total application levels exceeded 2,200.

For 2021, roughly one-fifth of the applications for hemp growers and processors were new applicants, with the remainder returning applicants.

Romanski has previously said the decrease in hemp interest could potentially be attributed to several reasons, including concerns about the development of a market for hemp, higher corn and soybean prices leading reconsideration of planting choices and hemp being a relatively new crop that comes with uncertainty.

For more information on hemp in Wisconsin, visit datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/Hemp.aspx

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