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Hemp enthusiast touts wide range of potential markets for Iowa farmers

DES MOINES — As state ag officials work to create the rules for industrial hemp production, Iowa farmers are weighing whether the crop would be a good fit in their operations.

Christopher Disbro, founder of the Iowa Hemp Association, says he’s excited about the opportunity for the state’s farmers who he hopes can begin growing the crop during the 2020 planting season.

“It’s an emerging market and it’s an expanding market but there is a market for it and it’s that potential for growth where we want our farmers getting involved,” Disbro says. “In the beginning stages, a lot of the markets focused on the pressed seed oil that goes into beauty products or food products. There’s a lot of people using existing infrastructure to do fiber and textiles.”

Dispro says industrial hemp has a wide range of uses and it holds many opportunities for the state’s growers.

“Long-term, it’s not just food and fiber, it’s fuel, it’s bioplastics,” Disbro says. “It’s got real potential to be a really strong third rotational crop for Iowa and for Midwest farmers.”

Studies find the production of industrial hemp could grow nationally to be a $1.9 billion dollar market by 2022, well beyond just fabric, fuel and rope.

“I love a lot of the hemp beauty products, specifically the shampoos and hand lotions, they really make great product,” Disbro says. “We should never have to cut down another tree for paper. I try to use as much hemp paper as I can. It’s got a nice feel to it. It’s a little thicker, a little more substantial.”

Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law earlier this month to legalize industrial hemp production. Iowa farmers won’t be able to legally grow hemp until the USDA approves the proposed regulatory plan being created by the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

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