State Senator Tom Shipley

State Senator Tom Shipley extolled the virtues of industrial hemp production at April's Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association's Annual Meeting and Ag Banquet. 

(Des Moines) -- Hemp is one step closer to becoming a crop in Iowa.

The Iowa Senate Monday approved Senate File 599 -- or the Iowa Hemp Act -- which would legalize the production of hemp for farmers across the state. State Senator Tom Shipley -- a Republican from Nodaway -- has been an advocate of legalizing hemp production for the last several years. Speaking on the Senate floor, Shipley says hemp will allow producers in Iowa to have another option for a profitable crop.

"This is more than just trying to keep up with the Joneses," said Shipley. "Other than the fact that I want to get ours passed before Nebraska's does, I'd really would like to get that done and beat them to the punch. It isn't about whether Wisconsin, Montana or whoever is doing it, it's about giving Iowans an opportunity."

The bill would legalize the production of hemp -- a plant in the cannabis family -- that contains less than 0.3% THC, which is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. The bill also limits producers to planting and harvesting no more than 40 acres of hemp each year.

"That 40 acre limit is there so that lots of people can take advantage and participate in this program, rather than just a handful," said Shipley. "There are opportunities out there that we don't even know about yet."

Senator Kevin Kinney is a farmer from Oxford. He says estimates say the hemp industry could grow to over $1.9 billion by 2022.

"I have been contacted by many future hemp farmers, who are ready to start producing and see the market for hemp products," said Shipley. "Hemp is connected to thousands of products, including human food, pet food, bedding, body oils, lotions, oils for candles, lanterns and paint, clothing, plastic, paper, construction materials and things like cement."

The path for hemp production was paved with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that eased restrictions on commercial production. State Senator Dan Zumbach of Ryan says hemp could become Iowa's third commodity behind corn and soybeans.

"This is a new era in agriculture," said Zumbach. "This is something that we haven't seen since World War II, but it's better and it truly is looking at the future of Iowa's agriculture. I'm honored to be part of this. This whole body should be honored to be part of this. Forty-five years from now, this will be a normal crop in our fields with assets that we can't imagine."

The bill passed the Senate 49-to-1 and now heads to the House for consideration.