Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December of 2018 and passage of Senate File 599 in Iowa have paved the road to the legalization of growing hemp in Iowa. The permitting process is currently open in Iowa. The application deadline for the 2020 outdoor growing season is May 15, 2020. Listed below are some definitions, questions and answers, and resources that can assist you with your plans to raise hemp as a crop.
Understand the legal definition of hemp. While hemp and marijuana come from the same genus of plants, they are defined differently chemically. Industrial hemp is defined by the 2018 Farm Bill as “The plant Cannabis sativaL. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
What is the current legal status of growing industrial hemp in Iowa? Please carefully review the content on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s (IDALS) Iowa Hemp Law web page. This website contains links to the permit applications, the Iowa hemp statute, administrative rules, frequently asked questions, and other pertinent resources. As of April 1, 2020, the permitting process is now available in Iowa, however, it is not legal to grow, possess, buy or sell hemp in Iowa until you have received a license from IDALS. Please see the document How to apply for an Iowa hemp license in 2020, provided by IDALS. In addition, you will find these forms:
Single Licensee Iowa Hemp Application
Multiple Licensees Iowa Hemp Application
Association Licensee Iowa Hemp Application
University Licensee Iowa Hemp Application
All questions related to regulatory issues, permitting, and testing requirements should be directed to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship at (515) 725-1470 or Hemp@IowaAgriculture.gov
What agronomic considerations should I anticipate if I want to grow hemp? First, determine the ultimate end use of the crop you want to grow. Do you want to grow for seed, grain, fiber or cannabidiol (CBD)? Each “product” requires different planting, management, growing and harvest practices. If you want to grow hemp on a contract for some company, whether it be for seed, fiber or CBD, know what the company’s needs are for the commodity. This can vary vastly by the end-use. Educate yourself and understand how practices in other states may or may not work within the scope of Iowa’s climate and soils. Hemp grown in Colorado experiences a much drier climate than hot, humid Iowa.
Second, ask yourself, do I have the appropriate equipment to plant and harvest a hemp crop? Again, this will depend on what you are growing it for. Yes, you can use a corn planter, but you may need a drill. If you are transplanting small plants or clones, you may need to do it by hand or have access to a transplanter.
Third, do you have the appropriate soil conditions? Much like corn and soybean, hemp does better on more highly productive, well-drained soils.
Fourth, what is your plan for weed, insect and pathogen control? There are limited pesticides labeled for use in hemp production (see further discussion below). If you are growing for CBD you will be hand-weeding this crop as well as hand-rogueing the male plants as you do not want male plants in CBD production.
Finally, do you have the appropriate grain storage, handling or drying equipment for grain/seed or CBD production? Spoilage of seed/grain can happen relatively quickly after harvest, within 4-6 hours, so grain needs to be dried in aeration bins or a very low temperature. Harvest of fiber may require retting or curing in the field. Reports say this can take 2-5 weeks. How does this fit into your existing fall tillage or manure application plans?
Are there pesticides labeled for hemp production in Iowa? You can find a list of pesticides labeled for use in hemp in Iowa by following the steps listed below. This list will be continuously updated. Check often. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS.
1. Go to https://iowaagriculture.gov/pesticide-bureau
2. Click on “Pesticide Products”
3. Click on “Pesticide Product Registration”
4. Click on “Search By Site”
5. Type “Hemp” in the search box, click search
What should I know if I am approached by a company that wants me to grow hemp on my farm for their efforts? Do your homework! Read up on this company, its history, the management team, and its current financial situation. The hemp industry is a fast-paced, evolving industry with both good and bad actors. It is highly suggested you secure a contract in advance and consider getting some percentage of payment in escrow to assure you do come away with some payment for your efforts. There is case after case of people not being paid for their crop.
What current research is available? Iowa State University has no current production research on growing hemp. Much like farmers not being able to grow hemp in recent years to due regulations, ISU has not been able to conduct research because it has not been legal to grow hemp. At this point in time, it is suggested that you seek out research done at other land-grant institutions, where climate and soils are similar to Iowa, and research done is applicable to the purpose of what you want to grow for hemp, i.e. seed, fiber, CBD, etc. Here are some suggested sources of information:
The University of Wisconsin has a series of webinars for “Getting Started”, “Growing/Agronomic” and “Harvest and Troubleshooting”. You can find these webinars and other information at https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/hemp/
The University of Illinois Extension offers production videos and other resources at https://extension.illinois.edu/jsw/industrial-hemp-production
The University of Nebraska also publishes hemp information through their CropWatch web page located at https://cropwatch.unl.edu/hemp
Is there crop insurance available for hemp production in Iowa? There are no current insurance options for hemp grown in 2020 in Iowa. Crop insurance options will be available in 2021.
Where might I find other reference material?
Hemp harvest sampling, testing and timing
The Opportunities and Challenges with Hemp
2019 Wisconsin Hemp Marketing Study
Please note, these links may not open in your browser. Check your download folder to find these files.
Hemp & Enterprise CBD Budget Model- University of Kentucky
Penn State Extension Sample Industrial Hemp - Grain Production Budget
Penn State Extension Sample Industrial Hemp - Fiber Production Budget