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Licensing underway for second hemp season

Industrial hemp (USDA photo)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Agriculture is signing up those interested in getting a license for the second year of industrial hemp growing.

Robin Pruisner oversees the program and says this year they have an online system that potential growers can use. “We are able to license and send them their license right to their email. No mailing things back and forth. We are continuing to build out that software program where people will do their planting reports online, those pre-harvest notifications,” Pruisner says, “and we are just trying to make this very sleek and very efficient, instead of a lot of emails that might get lost.”

Pruisner says they now have the final federal rules and that will bring some changes.
She says last year once the crop was tested, growers had just 15 days to harvest everything. Now under the U.S.D.A., they have 30 days.

The hemp has to have a THC level of point-three or lower to be acceptable. Pruisner says there are some more options available beyond just destroying the hemp if the crop fails to pass the test.

She wasn’t sure what to expect in the first year. “In 2020 we issued 86 temp licenses in total over the course of the year. I would estimate that somewhere between 70 and 75 actually grew hemp,” Pruisner says.

Pruisner says there are a lot of reasons why someone may get a license and then not grow a crop. “I think some of it has to do with getting their hands on the seed or the transplants. I also know that there is an enormous amount of manual labor involved in hemp production,” according to Pruisner. “I think some realize earlier than others the amount of labor and maybe they weren’t prepared for that and maybe they don’t get it all done in time to get their crop in the ground.”

Pruisner says finding a way to process and sell the hemp is an issue too. “I know of at least one hemp processor who has gone through the licensing process through the Department of Inspections and Appeals. But finding those buyers and processors is very difficult for people raising hemp,” she says.

Pruisner says many of the license applications she’s getting this year are from new growers who didn’t apply in the first year. She says that is not unusual based on what she has heard from other states. The application process is open through May 1st.

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