IOWA — In the first year of legal hemp farming in the state, 70 Iowans grew up to 40 acres worth of the crop.
State officials say it’s still a work in progress.
“Here in the state of Iowa, I am completely confident that we can grow about anything and grow it well. The pinch point in this whole thing is the processors. So we can raise that raw commodity, but we need that processing step in the middle to make it into consumer goods that consumers want to buy and that part of the industry is slow to stand up because it’s a huge investment,” said State Entomologist Robin Pruisner.
She said that unlike corn and soybeans, there are not a wide, diverse market for hemp.
Farmers must not only be mindful of the THC level in the crop, they only have fifteen days to harvest it.
Because the crop is still so new, insurance won’t cover it. So, if it doesn’t pass inspection, the crop is destroyed and farmers take the loss.
The few who grew the crop said there’s a lot of learning being done, and this year has been hopeful and nervewracking. “Bug pressure, weed pressure, weather-related issues, anything that stresses the plant out can cause it to go hot sooner than would be expected,” said hemp farmer Alissa Gardner.
Even with the strict time limit and unpredictable crop genetics, Pruisner said the state only has a failure rate of nine percent, which is lower than the national average.