DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) - Iowa governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that allows Iowa farmers to legally grow industrial hemp.
Farmers are hoping to cash-in big on hemp. But like any new industry, there is some government red tape to cut through before farmers can get to work.
Before anyone puts seeds in the ground the USDA needs to finish a federal rule-making session which will establish the guidelines each state's hemp program must follow.
Iowa State Entomologist & Ag Security Coordinator, Robin Pruisner will oversee Iowa’s hemp program and says that process is supposed to be done by the end of the year.
"That's a big question right now. When the USDA says the rules are going to be done at the end of the year, do they mean October? Do they mean December 31?’ asks Pruisner. “Right now, we are completely at their discretion and their speed."
When the process finishes up, each state must submit their plan for approval.
"Once our state plan is hopefully accepted, we'll start a licensing plan here in the state of Iowa” says Pruisner.
Farmers will have to pay a licensing fee, pass a background check and submit a planting report. Before farmers can even harvest their crop, they'll have to get a sample tested to make sure the hemp contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
All of this is supposed to be in place for farmers to start planting by the 2020 season, and Pruisner says they're already chomping at the bit.
"The phone calls have been pretty crazy honestly for about a year. I’m getting about a dozen phone calls a day. I can’t answer them fast enough. " says Pruisner. "Many people want me to change the law, which, I can’t do."
Pruisner says most of her calls are coming from out of state producers.
Iowa State University Field Agronomist Angie Riesck-Hinz says for instate farmers it may be a mixed bag.
"There are people who are anxious to get started growing hemp, there are people who want to see more market opportunities developed and more research before they jump in,” Riesck-Hinz says. “So, I think we're all over the board on where people want to be."
Another potential hang up - hemp research in Iowa on best growing and harvesting practices is limited because it's been outlawed for years.
Riesck-Hinz says “The conversation is really starting to happen at the university on what kind of research might be needed. that not only goes from a growing perspective, but we also need to look at is there the potential to develop markets is there a potential to develop processing "