MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin has received hundreds of applications to grow industrial hemp months after the state legalized production.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has received about 340 applications over the past two months, WLUK-TV reported . Preliminary numbers indicate about 250 of the applications are for growing industrial hemp, while more than 90 are for processing the plant.
"The interest has been incredible," said Rob Richard, senior director of governmental relations at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. "When we first started this process, I was anticipating 25 to 50 farmers in the first year, just based on what other states had done in their first year."
The state's hemp production history from the 1940s may be influencing the currently high level of interest, according to the federation. The state was well-known for hemp production during the World War II era.
"We know we're able to grow it," Richard said. "We have proven we can do it. I also believe that commodity prices, milk prices are so down right now that farmers are looking for options."
The state legalized industrial hemp production last year.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species, but industrial hemp has less than 1 percent THC, the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Marijuana typically contains between 3 and 15 percent THC, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The crop has high-tech, health, manufacturing and food applications. Hemp can be turned into many items, including food, clothes, insulation and construction materials.
The license doesn't allow for the production of cannabis-derived oil, according to the state Agriculture Department.