Industrial hemp offers new cash crop opportunities

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The economic potential for industrial hemp in Iowa cleared its first hurdle when legislators passed SF 329 out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. This bipartisan effort will create a research, regulation, marketing and production program in the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship. Senator Tim Kapucian (R-Keystone) and I have been working on this bill for a year, bringing together relevant parties to start the process of reintroduction.

Industrial hemp is a plant that does not contain measurable amounts of the chemical intoxicant found in illegal marijuana. It’s a low-input sustainable crop that can stimulate and encourage new diversified economic and agricultural development.

Thousands of products can be made from hemp. Iowa’s farmers, rich soil and great growing weather could make us a leader in this emerging market for homegrown seed, fabric, feed, fuel and hygiene products.

Industrial hemp was widely grown in North America for centuries. While it is still used in the U.S., most hemp product manufacturers import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries because the Controlled Substances Act prohibited American farmers from growing the crop for decades. The 2014 Farm Bill is turning things around by allowing universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp for limited purposes.

SF 329 is now under consideration by the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Learn more about industrial hemp in this article from Forbes.