Wisconsin: Assembly Agriculture Committee Votes to Let Farmers Grow Industrial Hemp

January 22, 2010-MADISON- Wisconsin farmers could soon have the option to grow industrial hemp under a proposal that has cleared the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. Rep. Garthwaite’s (D-Dickeyville) Assembly Bill 206 was originally written to create a legislative study committee to examine the issues surrounding hemp cultivation. However an amendment proposed by Rep. Louie Molepske (D- Stevens Point), with support from Rep. Garthwaite and Committee Chairwoman Amy Sue Vruwink (D- Milladore) instead allows the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection to license industrial hemp growers.

“During World War II, Wisconsin was a top grower of industrial hemp,” said Rep. Garthwaite. “Products containing hemp are on store shelves all over the country. It’s clear there is a real market for hemp, and right now it’s illegal for Wisconsin farmers to grow it. Tons of hemp is imported every year when it could easily be grown here; that just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Currently nine states including North Dakota and Montana have removed their legal barriers to the cultivation of hemp. Sixteen states have passed resolutions easing restrictions on research or cultivation, with twenty six states in total having introduced legislation aimed at relaxing barriers to hemp production. US consumers can purchase hemp-derived products such as cosmetics, lotions, food and even building materials made from hemp fiber.

“Every day Wisconsin manufacturers are importing hemp to make all sorts of consumer goods. That hemp is coming from countries as far away as China,” said Rep. Garthwaite. “We need to do everything we can to help Wisconsin farmers prosper, and niche products have already proven themselves as a source of reliable income for small and family farms. Keeping agricultural production local is good for everyone; it’s good for the farmer, for the community, the environment and the consumer. It’s hard to see a downside.”

It is not immediately clear if AB 206 will be considered before the entire Wisconsin Assembly; however, it represents the furthest forward movement so far in the effort to allow the cultivation of hemp in Wisconsin. The idea to study industrial hemp cultivation has historically been a bi-partisan effort and was introduced in the previous legislative session by former Republican Representative Eugene Hahn (R-Cambria), Representative Mary Williams (R- Medford) with Democratic support. Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact Rep. Garthwaite at 888-872-0049, or 608-266-1170. Source.

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