Attitudes on industrial hemp are changing statewide after the first growing season in more than six decades, leading farmers and legislators to believe that it could be the next “huge cash crop.”

One of the boosters is the leading author of legislation that created the state’s hemp pilot program, Sen. Patrick Testin, who predicts Wisconsin will become the top producer of hemp within the next decade.

“I think within five to 10 years, we are going to see Wisconsin be the No. 1 producer and processor of hemp in the entire country,” Testin said in an interview with last week.

Hemp has not been planted in Wisconsin since 1957 and has been outlawed in the United States since 1970 when it was lumped in with its psychoactive cousin marijuana and classified as a Schedule I narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency under the Controlled Substances Act.

But the 2014 Farm Bill passed by Congress contained a small section that drew distinctions between marijuana and industrial hemp and allowed states to grow hemp “under an agricultural pilot program.”

Wisconsin took advantage of the opportunity by passing Act 100 in 2017. That authorized the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to develop a pilot program to restart industrial hemp farming in the state.

Testin said expectations for the pilot program were tempered at first. Read the full story here.