iowa hemp laws

What’s required to grow hemp in Iowa? Ag agency releases proposed rules for comment

The legalization of hemp is spurring U.S. farmers into unfamiliar terrain, enticing them with profits amid turmoil in agriculture while proving to be a tricky endeavor in the early stages (Nov. 21) AP Domestic

Iowa farmers have a chance to comment on the state’s proposed rules for growing hemp — from the cost to get licensed to the testing and harvest requirements.

In addition to seeking input from Iowans, the state has submitted its proposed rules to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for consideration. The USDA has 60 days to review the rules and provide feedback.

The timing should enable farmers to plant hemp this spring. Hemp is a strain of cannabis plant that contains low levels of THC, the compound in marijuana that gets people high.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp, and Iowa lawmakers followed suit last year, passing a bill that allows each farmer to grow up to 40 acres of hemp.

Iowa farmers could be growing hemp next year after USDA’s release of crop regulations

The state estimates the hemp program, designed to be self-sustaining, will cost $304,000 the first year. It’s unclear, however, how many acres might be planted, said Robin Pruisner, hemp administrator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

“I joke that it could be anywhere between three and 3,000 farmers,” said Pruisner, who adds that grower interest has been significant.

Farmers wanting to grow hemp must submit fingerprints for a criminal background check and have no drug-related offenses from the past decade.

Getting a license to grow hemp depends on the number of acres. Five acres costs $525 in licensing, for example, while 40 acres costs $1,200. At the time of licensing, farmers also must pay $1,000 for the testing required before harvest.

The state wants a 30-day notice before farmers anticipate harvesting their hemp, and gives them 15 days after testing to combine their crop before new samples are required.

The state will order farmers to destroy crops with more than 0.3% THC.

But before farmers decide to grow hemp, Pruisner said they should know where they plan to sell their crop. Growers in other states have failed to find processors and are still holding last year’s harvest.

U.S. farmers hope to tap into the market for hemp-derived cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, used in everything from pet food to wine and creams that help relieve aches and pains.

But state officials remind Iowans that the state’s commercial hemp production program does not legalize the use of CBD for human consumption in the state. The Federal Drug Administration is still working to determine if CBD is safe for human consumption.

Farmers wanting to grow hemp in Iowa should prepare to have criminal background checked, and pay for licensing and testing, under proposed rules.