Could Iowa cash in on farming hemp? Farmers and ag experts weigh in
Some states are getting the green light to grow industrial hemp legally but not yet in Iowa.
The 2018 federal farm bill legalized growing hemp in the United States, but state legislators still need to pass a bill allowing Iowa farmers to do so.
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that does not make a person high, and is predicted to be a $600 billion industry this year.
"I can see some guys maybe toying with it putting a small plot in and just kind of seeing where it goes," said Tiffin farmer Steve Swenka.
The possibility of growing hemp in Iowa is exciting for some Iowa farmers, but others still have questions if they will profit from the crop.
"Every since the farm bill was passed, I've probably gotten two to three phone calls a day, sometimes more than that," said Angie Rieck-Hinz, Skilled Agronomist with Iowa State University. "We've had some relatively low profit margins on corn and soybeans the last couple of years, and people are looking to grow that third crop in Iowa."
Swenka is not having a cow over the news just yet.
"To be perfectly honest, I smiled a little bit and I thought that might be kind of a niche market for somebody," he said.
"We don't know what it's going to cost to bring seeds here. It really is going to depend in my opinion what you're growing hemp for," said Rieck-Hinz.
Both fiber and seed version of hemp are used in a variety of products, which could attract investment in the state.
"We use fibers for paper making, we use fibers for clothes making, fibers to make composites such as plastics...and then we have hemp for seed which obviously can be made into hemp oil, maybe as a cooking oil," said Rieck-Hinz.
Still, it could be a long road before hemp is approved here, but even Swenka is not ruling it out.
"Well you know if guys are making thousands and thousands of dollars an acre, you'd have to be a fool not to look at that," he said.
The hemp plant does produce cannibidiol, also known as CBD. A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health told CBS2 news if the state allows hemp to grow in Iowa, the current law restricting CBD manufacturing would need to be changed.