MADISON (WKOW) — Some Wisconsin hemp farmers are having a hard time profiting from their crops this year because they say agriculture officials didn’t test their crops on time.
The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection must test hemp before it’s harvested to ensure plants do not overproduce the psychoactive ingredient, THC. Farmers are required under the hemp pilot program to send a 30-day notice to state agriculture officials on when they plan to harvest.
FL Morris is president of South Central Wisconsin Hemp and an organic hemp farmer for CBD. She’s part of a nine member cooperative of hemp farmers who submitted notices to DATCP but said most officials didn’t show up on time.
“The longer you wait to take the sample, the higher the test results and THC will be,” said Morris. “The difference between one day or the next could mean the difference between a hot crop test or not.”
The longer the hemp grows, the higher the THC it produces. In order to sell their crops, plants must have less than .03% of THC and, if not, it’s considered a “hot” crop.
When that happens, farmers can request another sample but if results come back “hot” again, farmers have to destroy their field.
“As we’re waiting for our crops to be sampled, our profit is just eroding,” said Morris. “That can be thousands, if not millions, gone.”
Brain Kuhn, director of DATCP’s Plant Industry Bureau said the state typically tries to make those timeframes, but problems can arise.
“Sometimes we get to sites and the grower doesn’t show up and we can’t sample — and a lot of dates from farmers kept changing, they would say their ready — but then called and said — oh, don’t come yet,” said Kuhn.
DATCP hired additional staff to help with sampling this year as the hemp industry continues to grow, but Kuhn added with any new crop comes challenges.
“It’s the first time for 99% of growers to put seeds in the ground, so everyone is learning,” he said. “We get a couple hundred of samples that come back “hot” each year.”
Morris is asking DATCP to help growers that test positive for hot crops as many invest a lot of their money and time to harvest.
“Let’s get an emergency rule that allows those with high THC levels to go to a producer to extract the THC and make them lower,” said Morris.
She said this would help those who could lose thousands.
Kuhn said DATCP is not currently considering implementing an emergency rule because the industry is highly regulated by the federal government in partnership with and state officials.
“We definitely know that we push that timeline for some of our growers, but many growers, we got there within that time frame,” said Kuhn. “Our target was to create a framework for growers to tell us what their harvest date was.”