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Industrial Hemp Nears Legalization

IOWA -- The 2018 Farm Bill allowed industrial hemp to one day be grown in the United States, and the Iowa Legislature is moving forward on local legalization. While it cannot be planted yet in the state, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says the farm bill makes industrial hemp a commodity, which could qualify for crop insurance.

But the USDA will require states to apply for a program, making them license farmers and track where fields are and how many acres are grown before a state is allowed to have a program move forward.

Industrial hemp is a different variety of marijuana, with negligible levels of THC. It is grown for commercial use in textiles, food, paper, and building material.

Iowa's Senate passed their version of the Iowa Hemp Act in a vote of 49-1. Authorizing production and marketing industrial hemp, to be administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. It also creates a Hemp fund in the state treasury.

Licensed growers will be able to have a maximum of 40 acres and will have to pay a licensing fee. The bill allows the state $300,000 in expenses including two full time positions to regulate the product.

On Thursday, the House Appropriation Committee moved their version of the bill forward with the recommendation to vote.

Naig says there are a lot of farmers interested in diversifying their operations, "We know we can grow it. We used to grow it here a long time ago and I would just caution folks that just like any new crop or any niche market they might be getting into. It's really important to understand all the costs, all of the regulatory requirements, and then to make sure there's a market for the finished product."

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