DES MOINES, Iowa -- Farmers like Corey Goodhue have been waiting to grow hemp in Iowa for years. Several states like Colorado and Kentucky passed laws to allow for industrial hemp, but the president's signature on the farm bill will clear it for the nation. Goodhue says with tariffs still in place on soy and ethanol, it comes at a good time.
“The leftover soybean stock is very burdensome, so to have a legitimate alternative to soybeans is a real big deal to help cut down that surplus” said Goodhue.
Goodhue also says that Iowa is prime land to grow the crop.
“My grandfather can remember during World War II the need for industrial hemp for rope and stuff like that, and the fact that it's still around in our ditches says a lot about how well it works in our climate” he said.
But just how big of a deal will it be? The Iowa Farm Bureau believes it will start on the slower side but has a lot of room to grow.
“Over about a three or four-year period this could grow to be a 20 million-dollar industry in the state but it may be as much as a 20 billion dollar industry nationwide long term” said Farm Bureau Director of Research David Miller.
However, it’s not as simple as just planting hemp and harvesting a perfect crop. Farmers say they have a lot to learn about growing hemp including best fertilization practices, equipment modifications, and of course the biggest question…
“Who do you sell it to and what kind of a contract do you have with them? Because there's a lot of risk to produce something and then have no viable market when it's said and done” said Goodhue.
Hemp does not produce THC in the same way that cannabis does, but you can extract CBD oil. You can also use hemp fiber for clothing and jewelry, and you can use the seeds for food products like hemp milk. It's a new frontier for Iowa farmers, but they're excited for the chance.
“There's risk in opportunity, it's how much are you willing to gamble and it is real exciting, something new” said Goodhue.
With the restrictions lifted the Farm Bureau expects that Iowa State will be a valuable resource for farmers looking at hemp research and best practices.