U.S farmers in Wisconsin fear late tests will mean ‘hot’ crops

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The president of a Wisconsin, USA hemp farming cooperative has a solution for problems with “hot” hemp – hemp plants which exceed the 0.3 THC limits set under U.S. laws.

“Put an emergency rule in effect right now to allow people to process out the THC from any crop that is one percent or lower,” FL Morris, president of South Central Wisconsin Hemp, told Wisconsin Public Radio last week in the wake of state testing snafus that threaten some farmers’ crops this year.

Growers can’t process their crops without a “fit for commerce” certificate from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATPC) that guarantees it has less than 0.3 percent THC content.

Some tests were late

Some farmers, who pay for the testing, say their fields weren’t tested on time, within a 30 day window set from the moment they notify the DATCP of their harvesting plans. Leaving plants in ground raises THC levels, so the threat of crop loss grows as the testing is delayed.

“There’s a way to mitigate the issue of a slightly elevated THC level through processing and whatever that would look like for a grower” Morris said, noting it’s farmer’s who’ve invested in developing Wisconsin’s hemp industry to this point. “We stand to lose thousands,” she said of the growers in her co-op, who farm organic hemp for CBD.

Growers up 10-fold

Brian Kuhn, director of DATCP’s Plant Industry Bureau, said the 30-day harvest notice is an estimate by growers, many of whom are farming hemp for the first time this year. He said DATCP added 10 staff members for testing hemp this year after a 10-fold increase in the number of authorized growers under the state’s pilot program in its first year (2018). The agency has collected over 2,100 samples so far this year, Kuhn said.

Kuhn said Morris’ proposal to push the THC standard up to 1 percent would make the state noncompliant with federal laws governing hemp. But he said the agency intends to build in solutions for farmers through an emergency rule, as Wisconsin lawmakers consider a new hemp bill that would bring the state into full compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill.

Kuhn said hemp growers knew the risk associated with cultivating the crop during the second year of the state’s pilot program.

“There absolutely is significant risk here that you could do everything right and still end up with a hot crop at the end of the season. We experienced that in our first year. We knew that we would experience it again this year,” Kuhn said. Wisconsin hemp crops had about a 10% hot rate last year.

Wisconsin was the No. 1 industrial hemp producer in the United States at times during the first half of the 20th century. Farmers in Wisconsin, traditionally a dairy farming state, have turned to hemp as grain and dairy prices have fallen.

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