On April 8, 2020, Iowa joined the ranks of the states that allow individuals and businesses to cultivate hemp.
The provisions of the state plan, which are codified in Iowa Code section 204, are known as the Iowa Hemp Act. The law gives farmers the right to grow up to 40 acres hemp for commercial purposes upon acquiring a license from the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. These licenses are valid for one year and may be renewed annually. A person may apply for more than one license; however, these licenses must not convey a cumulative interest in more than 40 acres of hemp.
All persons desiring a license must submit fingerprints for an FBI background check. If an applicant has a conviction for a crime involving controlled substances, they may be disqualified from holding a license, depending on the nature of the crime. Additionally, violating certain provisions of the Iowa Farm Act three or more times in a five-year period can result in a five-year ban from farming hemp.
Ironically, some of the buzz surrounding hemp farming in Iowa has tapered off since legalization. Potential growers are concerned about the ability of the market to absorb their production. They know that there is currently a surplus of hemp produced by other states that legalized the crop ahead of Iowa.
The last thing any farmer wants is a crop they can’t sell. According to a report put out by Whitney Economics out of Oregon, 65 percent of US hemp farmers that the firm surveyed in 2019 lacked buyers for their harvests. However, the firm believes this to be one of many expected growing pains that will eventually be worked out as the market matures.
Ongoing progress in the hemp industry continues its push towards a bright future and Iowa is another important addition to the list of states that now allow cultivation of legal hemp.