Iowa agriculture officials are taking public comments on proposed new rules that will regulate hemp production in the state. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says comments on the proposed rules to regulate the planting, growing and harvesting of commercial hemp will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22. The public can visit rules.iowa.gov to read the proposed rules and submit comments.
The state submitted its proposed hemp production program to USDA for approval on Dec. 11. USDA has 60 days to review and provide feedback. It is not legal to grow, possess, buy or sell hemp in Iowa until USDA approves the state plan and the Iowa Department of Agriculture publishes the approval in the Iowa Administrative Bulletin.
Once USDA approves the state hemp plan and the online licensing system is operational, Iowa ag officials will start accepting hemp grower license applications. Licensed farmers will be able to grow up to 40 acres of hemp per season. Interested growers should continue to monitor iowaagriculture.gov/hemp for updates. The timing of this approval process should enable Iowa farmers to plant hemp this spring.
License to grow required
This commercial hemp production program does not legalize the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for human consumption in Iowa, Naig says. The Federal Drug Administration is still working to determine if CBD is safe for human consumption. Hemp grain, hemp seed oil and protein powder derived from hemp grain have been cleared by FDA for human consumption.
The public comment period gives farmers the opportunity to weigh in regarding what they think about the state’s proposed rules for growing hemp, says Robin Pruisner, hemp program administrator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that contains low levels of THC, the compound in marijuana. Thus, the production of commercial hemp as a crop is being strictly regulated.
The proposed rules include provisions for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced, testing the levels of THC in the crop — the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high — and disposing of plants not meeting the requirements. The rules also establish licensing requirements and ensure compliance with the law passed in May by the Iowa Legislature, allowing hemp to be grown as a commercial crop in the state.
The 2018 Federal Farm Bill legalized production of hemp in the U.S., and Iowa lawmakers followed suit last year passing legislation allowing each farmer in Iowa to grow up to 40 acres. State officials estimate Iowa’s hemp program, designed to be self-sustaining, will cost $304,000 the first year. It is unclear how many acres might be planted, but there is a lot of interest from farmers, Pruisner says.
Testing before harvest
Farmers wanting to grow hemp must submit fingerprints for a criminal background check and have no drug-related offenses during the past decade. The cost to get a license to grow hemp in Iowa depends on the number of acres. To grow 5 acres, for example, it costs $525 for licensing; to grow 40 acres, it costs $1,200. At the time of licensing, farmers must also pay $1,000 for the THC testing required before harvest.
The proposed state rules require a 30-day notice before farmers expect to harvest their hemp, and farmers have 15 days after testing to harvest their crop before new samples are required. If the crop has more than 0.3% THC, the state will order the farmer to destroy the crop.
“Before farmers decide to grow hemp, they should know where they plan to sell their crop,” Pruisner says. Growers in other states where hemp is already legal to grow have in some cases failed to find processors and are still holding last year’s harvest. “This isn’t a crop you can take to the elevator and sell like you can with corn and soybeans,” she says. “Get a contract and a marketing plan lined up prior to planting.”
A significant number of farmers across the U.S. are interested in growing hemp because of its potential profitability, especially if tapping into the CBD market. This extract is used in a wide range of products — from pet food to wine to lotions — to relieve aches and pains.
“But again, we remind everyone that the state’s commercial hemp production program does not legalize the use of CBD for human consumption in Iowa,” Pruisner says. “The Federal Drug Administration is still in the process of determining if CBD is safe for human consumption.”
State officials will hold a public hearing on Iowa’s proposed rules for growing hemp as a commercial crop 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 22 at the Wallace State Office Building in Des Moines. Iowans can send written comments about the rules by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22 to Maison Bleam, Iowa Department of Agriculture, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319, or email email@example.com.