The 2018 Farm Bill paved the way for hemp as an agricultural crop.
To date, 41 states have legalized hemp. Nine states, including Iowa, have yet to legalize the crop. We discuss the opportunities hemp could provide, if legalized.
The 2019 Land Investment Expo covered several topics, including industrial hemp. Michael Bowman, founder of FirstCrop and National Hemp Association member, spoke to the probability for hemp production in Iowa. Bowman says the state must first pass legislation, which could potentially assist with infrastructure needs.
“Infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges. We have infrastructure for everything, but (hemp),” Bowman said. “Our challenge is going to be, ‘How are we going to bring private capital and the public side of this part. I think there is a unique role in state government and federal government, frankly, in helping make sure this infrastructure is in place.”
Bowman says, “We need all hands on deck” to bring life to this opportunity. Farmers would be able to incorporate hemp into their operation, following passage of state legislation. Bowman makes note of two different methods for production.
“You have hemp for CBD, which are singularly tended plants. (It is) labor intensive (and has a) higher value, but it takes someone who likes to get their hands in the dirt, be out there and tend to it. Everything is pretty much done by hand,” Bowman said. “The other side of the track is more traditional. You have male plants that you plant for seed.”
Bowman believes hemp is a “for-all crop,” providing opportunities to many.
“I think it gives us a legitimate third crop for rotation because of what the plant is capable of creating in value-add products,” Bowman said. “If we want to rotate the trend, let’s say in rural Iowa…there was a statistic thrown out earlier this afternoon that two-thirds of Iowa counties are in decline population wise. What are we going to do to attract the young people back?”
Bowman speaks from experience, in saying, “Young people love this plant.”
“Young people love this plant and being around it. They love the thought of what they can do with it,” Bowman said. “We are seeing young people, college grads coming back to farms specifically to do this.”