(WRN) - Farmers looking to add industrial hemp to their fields need to start doing their homework and talk with the state before they try to plant crops.

Wisconsin has started a program that allows for farmers to grow industrial hemp on a limited, pilot basis. Melody Walker with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says there’s a lot of planning that needs to be done first, and a lot of communication that needs to happen with state officials.

Farmers will need to take part in an application process with DATCP that includes a background check. “Farmers can’t have any drug-related convictions if they’re going to plant hemp,” says Walker. part of that registration will require telling the state exactly how much acreage they plan to grow.

Farmers also need to be sure they’ll have a buyer for their product that is inside state lines. Walker says that transport to producers outside of Wisconsin is still illegal. “Because it’s such a new crop to Wisconsin, we don’t have a lot of processing plants ready to take crops from people, so that is really an important piece if they plan to market the crop.”

Seeds for any hemp fields have to come from a list of certified vendors to ensure that the hemp that’s being grown isn’t going to be chemically active and classified as marijuana.

When it comes time to harvest, producers will need to get in touch with the state again so that experts can come out and test their crops to ensure that they have low enough levels of THC, the active chemical in hemp, to qualify as industrial hemp and not marijuana.

Farmers have until May 1 to sign up for the pilot program. You can find out more online at https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/IndustrialHemp.aspx.

Read more news from the Wisconsin Radio Network.

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