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Serving: IA
hemp plant in field UrosPoteko/Getty Images
NEW CROP: Industrial hemp had been illegal to grow since the 1970s, but the 2018 Farm Bill allows states to permit farmers to cultivate the crop.

Industrial hemp production approved in Iowa

Governor signs bill allowing farmers to legally grow industrial hemp.

Farmers are one step closer to having the option to grow hemp legally in the state of Iowa. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 599 into law May 13. The Iowa Hemp Act passed the Iowa Legislature with overwhelming support in April.

The bill signed into law allows licensed growers to grow the crop on up to 40 acres. First, however, the Iowa Department of Agriculture must develop a plan and submit it to USDA for approval. USDA must release its own regulations, which are expected this fall.

The 2018 Farm Bill eased federal regulations on hemp production. Most states since then have either legalized production or are growing it under a 2014 law allowing limited commercial production or research plots. Among states that haven’t legalized hemp is South Dakota, where the governor recently vetoed such a law.

Value-added opportunity

“The 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for commercial hemp production. We’re excited for growers in Iowa to have the same opportunities to compete as their peers in other states,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “We’ve collaborated with other agencies in Iowa, as well as law enforcement officials, to prepare for the deregulation of hemp in Iowa. However, we advise growers to do their research to be sure there is a viable, profitable market for commercial hemp before they make the investment.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will develop a state plan to license and regulate production of hemp and submit it to USDA for approval, Naig says. Farmers can’t legally grow hemp in Iowa until USDA approves the state’s proposed regulatory plan. Hemp production likely won’t be legalized until the 2020 growing season, depending on timing of the review and approval process.

Get hip on hemp

Facts to know about hemp include:

Only 40 acres. Once USDA approves Iowa’s proposed regulatory plan, an individual farmer can legally grow up to 40 acres of hemp per season.

No recreational use. This law legalizes production, processing and marketing of hemp in Iowa. It does not legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  

THC levels. Hemp plants have THC levels of 0.3% or less. Plants with THC levels above 0.03% are still considered controlled substances in the state of Iowa and must be destroyed. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, a crystalline compound, the main active ingredient of cannabis.

Fibers. Hemp produces fibers that can be used to make products like textiles, oils, paper and rope.

IDALS to regulate. Farmers must have a license from IDALS to grow hemp. To learn more about hemp production in Iowa, visit

State Sen. Kevin Kinney, a farmer from Oxford in eastern Iowa, shepherded the Iowa Hemp Act through the Iowa Senate. He says hemp can be a third leading agricultural crop commodity in Iowa behind corn and soybeans, noting that industrial hemp can be used in food, fiber, paper and other products.

Kinney says it’s been estimated that industrial hemp could become a $1.9 billion market within the next several years. The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 38 states considered legislation last year after the federal government eased restrictions on commercial production.

While the new crop could eventually find a place in Iowa agriculture, “there is very little infrastructure to support cultivation and marketing of the crop,” says Sam Funk, Iowa Farm Bureau chief economist. “Like any new product or niche market, each farmer has to take a close look at the decision whether or not to grow hemp in their farming operation.”




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