Sauk County farmer interested in growing hemp if legalized

Published: Oct. 18, 2017 at 6:58 PM CDT
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SAUK COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) -- Since the 2014 Federal Farm Bill gave states the power to legalize hemp cultivation, 30 states have started growing hemp. A Wisconsin farmer says she wants in on the industry.

A bipartisan

that would allow Wisconsin farmers to start growing hemp unanimously passed out of a Senate committee on Wednesday. The bill would allow farmers to apply for a license to grow hemp and partner with the University of Wisconsin in hemp research.

"I mean, there's always new opportunities, why not explore them? Why not say 'yeah let's try it,'" Sauk County farmer Marcia Colby said.

Her husband's farm has been in his family for five generations. It will soon be passed down to a sixth. Colby says she would be interested in trying out a new crop on the farm to expand their diversity.

"I just think it's like a pioneer, you know, we're pioneering in this new venture," Colby said.

Hemp farming in Wisconsin has deep roots. Before hemp was federally outlawed in 1957, Wisconsin was one of the largest producers of hemp.

Hemp is still used in products like textiles and the plant's seeds are used in many health food products. Most of the hemp in those products comes from Canada. Since the federal government relaxed restrictions on hemp, some states have started entering the hemp product market.

Under the federal legislation, hemp growth must be involved with agricultural and market research.

The author of the Assembly version of the bill, State Representative Jesse Kremer, says if Wisconsin doesn't allow farmers to start growing hemp, the state will lose out on an opportunity in a growing industry.

"it's used in vehicles, it's replacing Kevlar in bulletproof vests, it's replacing graphite in high capacity batteries. It's such a strong product, the possibilities are endless," Rep. Kramer said.

The hemp that farmers would be allowed to grow in Wisconsin would have to contain less than .3 percent THC. Rep. Kramer says that's not nearly enough of the chemical to get a person high.

Earlier this month, during a stop at Cadott High School Governor Walker shared his concerns about the legislation.

"It's early in the process and it's certainly something we'll look at. Overall, looking at this I have a concern in anything that would lead to legalization, mainly because as we fight opioid and heroin abuse across the state, one of the things I hear for public health and law enforcement and others is anything that's a gateway into some of these other areas is a big, big concern. We hear it from small towns to big cities and everywhere in between," Gov. Walker said.

After the bill passed out of committee on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker said, "the governor will review the bill if it gets to his desk."

Copyright 2017: WMTV