While this year’s five-fold increase in hemp farmers made it clear Wisconsinites are enthusiastic about the state’s budding hemp program, the growth from 2018 created some logistical challenges for the state agriculture department — specifically when it came time to test all the crops.
“I think we delivered very high quality customer service for the vast number of our growers and processors out there, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for improvement going into the 2020 growing season,” said Sara Walling, administrator of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s division of agriculture resource management.
One challenge this year was securing enough staff to handle testing of crops grown by the approximately 1,200 participating farmers.
Before harvest, hemp plants must be tested to ensure they’re not considered “hot,” or that their levels of THC — the compound in marijuana that can produce a high — don’t exceed the allowed limit of 0.3%. DATCP does allow some variance beyond the 0.3% level, but any plant that surpasses the allowable threshold is considered marijuana and must be destroyed on site.
“As that plant matures, the CBD (cannabidiol) level increases and that increases the value of that crop, certainly for CBD production,” Walling said. “As that CBD level climbs, the THC level wants to climb with it, so reaching that happy medium is tricky.”