Local farmer touts benefits of industrial hemp - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Local farmer touts benefits of industrial hemp

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EVANSVILLE (WKOW) --- Growing industrial hemp is nothing new for the Doudlah family.

“We have a long history in Wisconsin growing hemp for the war effort, WWII,” said Mark Doudlah, owner of Doudlah Farm, an organic farm in Evansville. “In the 1930s and 40s, we grew industrial hemp on this farm.”

On Friday, Wisconsin joined 31 other states that have lifted the ban on growing industrial hemp.

Hemp is a type of cannabis that's grown to make things like paper, clothing and paint.

So when the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) began accepting applications from farmers who want to grow the crop, the 4th generation farmer didn't waste any time applying for a state license.

“Printed it yesterday, off the website,” Doudlah said.

Doudlah said the benefits from the budding industry are substantial, not just for farmers and the state's economy, but for consumers as well.

“I think this could become a million dollar industry, if not a billion dollar industry to the state over time if we're successful,” he said. “We can improve soil health. We can improve soil diversity. And in essence we can improve human health.”

“We are interested in working with Ken Anderson from Legacy Hemp. We want to produce the first organic hemp seeds and make that organic hemp seed available to all of the other organic growers in Wisconsin,” Doudlah said.

When people think of industrial hemp, many times their first thought is THC or marijuana. But Doudlah said the crop is very unique and could add a lot of value to Wisconsin farmers.

“Farmers are really hurting right now, so why not add industrial hemp as a cropping sequence to work farmers can do. Industrial hemp is very unique. It doesn’t require a lot of nutrients and things like that. And it doesn’t require a lot of pesticides. So that’s why we're looking at that as an organic crop.”

Under the law, hemp plants can only contain a small amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Even with the small amount of THC, Doudlah said hemp has always had a tainted reputation.

“Industrial hemp has been shadowed by the marijuana side of things. And people don't understand that it's a completely different crop. Industrial hemp will never get you high,” Doudlah said. “Also, industrial hemp when it pollinates and cross pollinates, will actually decrease the value of the medicinal marijuana by lowering the THC value.”

Growing industrial hemp is not without its risks.

“Industrial hemp is a difficult maybe to combine. But I think most of the challenges today with the modern equipment we have can be overcome,” Doudlah said.

Farmers need to apply for a license before the May 1, 2018 deadline. People with drug convictions are banned from participating in the program.

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