2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Iowa House OKs hemp farming, though some see 'limited opportunity'

$10 million earmarked for housing, broadband

Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota
Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota

DES MOINES — The Iowa House joined the Senate in opening the door for farmers who want to grow industrial hemp.

Although he doubts many farmers will jump at the opportunity, Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, called passage of Senate File 599 “a win for every one … most importantly for me, farmers.”

After adding an amendment sought by the Department of Public Safety addressing the transportation of hemp, the House voted 95-3 to approve the bill. Republican Reps. Dean Fisher of Montour, Stan Gustafson of Cumming and Skyler Wheeler of Orange City were the “no” votes.

Klein said the Senate had agreed to accept the amendment and send the bill to the governor.

The bill authorizes the production, processing and marketing of industrial hemp in Iowa subject to USDA approval and under the guidance of the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

It would set up a fund managed by state ag officials for fees, appropriations and other revenue that would be generated to help administer the new activity.

Like Klein, Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, saw the bill as creating a “limited opportunity,” though business owners in his community encouraged lawmakers to join 41 other states that have created industrial hemp programs.

Approval came with warnings.

Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, encouraged farmers to talk with federal farm agencies to make sure planting hemp doesn’t violate the rules of conservation plans.

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Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, saw the bill as “growing government” with a lot of red tape and regulations. In his reading of the U.S. Constitution, he said, the federal government has no authority to regulate hemp.

HOUSING, Broadband

The House also approved Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Empower Rural Iowa Initiative to improve housing stock and broadband across the state on a 98-0 vote.

It included a $10 million one-time appropriation for workforce housing as part of a recovery package for communities affected by widespread flooding this spring.

House File 772 was amended on the House floor to add the $10 million for qualified housing in counties impacted by flooding.

The bill also increased the existing appropriation for workforce housing tax credits from $20 million to $25 million, with $10 million reserved for smaller communities.

It also sets new standards for rural broadband and updates 2014 service maps to reflect new broadband installations.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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