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Iowa Department of Agriculture seeks public input for new hemp production regulations

Kaitlyn Riley

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Looking to grow new opportunities in Iowa, the state’s department of agriculture is looking for feedback on its proposed hemp production regulations.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture submitted its proposed hemp production program to the USDA for approval on Dec. 11. The USDA has 60 days to review and provide feedback. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said the public has until Jan. 22 to read the proposed rules that will regulate the planting, growing, and harvesting of commercial hemp in Iowa. Naig fully expected to have a hemp program running in 2020.

“We’ve seen a significant interest in this,” Naig said. “Time will tell how many folks actually apply to get licenses and go through the process. There are still some questions around the marketplace. What are you going to sell at the end of the growing season, fiber or hemp seed oil, or CBD?”

Hemp could provide an option for Iowa farmers seeking diversification in agriculture.

“We’ve had some challenging economic years recently,” Haig said. “I think folks are generally interested in seeing what they can do to diversify their operation.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has looked at other state models while developing its program, but Haig noted Iowa has specific challenges especially since the use of cannabidiol (CBD) is not legal for human consumption in Iowa.  Haig said CBD will not be legalized in Iowa until the FDA takes action.

“I do think that that is a complicating factor,” Haig said. “The fact that CBD has not been approved by the FDA for food use is a challenge from a regulatory standpoint. In the state of Iowa, CBD will not be legal even when we have our program approved and folks will be growing it. I think that does create a complicating factor for folks. If that is the market that you are intending to supply for, you will have to ship the product out of state for processing.”

Haig encouraged anyone interested in learning more about hemp or making suggestions for the program to visit the Iowa Department of Agriculture website.

“We really encourage folks to have their eyes wide open to understand the rules and regulations and what that entails, but also have a marketplace. Know what you get paid to grow the product. There is a learning curve here that folks really have to focus on.”

Comments will be accepted until 4:30 p.m./CT on Jan. 22, 2020.