Iowa farmers can cash in on growing hemp industry in 2020

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Iowa farmers will have the opportunity next year to begin growing hemp.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued regulations pertaining to the production of industrial hemp. The growth of the fairly new crop, licensing and testing procedures, and possible destruction of plants that fall short of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, requirements will be governed by the rules.

The move came as a sigh of relief for farmers who are struggling financially, especially after the trade dispute between the U.S. and China negatively affected sales of traditional harvests. It is believed that hemp-derived cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, will create new revenue.

CBD is used in certain items including clothing, rope, bioplastics and biofuel.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is currently working on developing the state’s first hemp program. According to state entomologist Robin Pruisner, farmers should be able to plant their first hemp crop in the spring. Licensing is also expected to begin next year, she added.

Forecasters say hemp could be more than a $20 billion business with the U.S. by 2020.

Iowa opened the door to hemp production when the state legislature passed a hemp bill, which Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law in May. State officials said they will make sure state regulations align with the new federal rules. Iowa’s plan must also garner USDA approval before the state’s hemp program can become effective.

Pruisner said that while hemp production appears to promise an economic windfall, she advised farmers to not plant the crop unless they have a contract to sell it.

Iowa farmers are mandated by law to grow no more than 40 acres of hemp. They bear the responsibility to ensure that their produce’s THC levels do not exceed 0.3 percent.

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