Commercial hemp can be used to manufacture a number of products, including food, paper and famously strong rope, to name a few. But Iowa farmers hoping to grow hemp starting next year could be hampered by a far stronger substance — government red tape.
The latest federal Farm Bill opened the door to expanded hemp production in the U.S., but with plenty of restrictions and strings attached. Iowa’s own hemp bill, approved by lawmakers this year, takes its cue from those federal edicts.
Farmers will need to be licensed to grow no more than 40 acres of hemp. They’ll be subject to fingerprinting and an FBI background check. Farmers who have been convicted of any controlled substance felony within the last 10 years are barred from growing hemp.
License fees range from $500 for small crops up to $1,000 for a crop larger than 10 acres, plus $5 for every acre more than 10 acres. Before a crop is harvested, it must be inspected and tested by the Iowa Department of Agriculture to determine if the plants contain less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that creates the “high” in hemp’s botanical brethren, marijuana. If the test, which costs $1,000, finds a crop that’s too high in THC, it will be destroyed.
This is, for the most part, unnecessary bureaucratic Bubble Wrap created to satisfy lawmakers and others who continue to believe, incorrectly, that industrial hemp production is a gateway crop leading us to legal, recreational marijuana.
Hemp is a crop, period. Subjecting farmers who want to grow it to background checks makes as much sense as digging into the pasts of producers buying seed corn or soybeans. No other crop, with the exception of the growing of medical cannabis for medical use, requires a state license. State agriculture officials will be pressed into becoming the hemp police.
Again, we understand the state is drafting rules that will pass muster with federal officials who must sign off on Iowa’s program. They’re working within a system handed down from on high.
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But we hope Congress and state lawmakers will revisit and ease these restrictions, soon. Hemp could be a lucrative crop, opening new markets for Iowa farmers eager to diversify their income streams. It would be disappointing if tight, misguided rules and regulations discouraged farmers from planting hemp.
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