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Meeting Discusses New Cash Crop For Farmers

By Staff | Oct 20, 2015

Representative from the Iowa Hemp Association were on hand Monday, October 12, to talk with a hand full of local farmers on the possibility of growing hemp as a cash rotation crop in Iowa. Boris Shcharansky, Co-founder of the Iowa Hemp Association and Dr. Chris Disbro, Board of Directors President of the Iowa Hemp Association presented information on the unique stream of revenue that growing hemp could potentially give Iowa farmers.

“I see the need to give Iowa farmers another option for potential cash rotation crop that could significantly raise the yearly revenue for Iowans, not just the farmers.” Shcharansky said. “We are not talking about medical marijuana or recreational marijuana; what we are talking about is hemp that is used for industrial purposes.”

Historically, hemp was grown in the 13 original colonies to be turned into maritime rope and cord for England.

A revitalization of the production of hemp for industrial use resurged during World War I and Iowa was called upon to begin to begin production of 60,000 acres of hemp on licensed farms to support the war effort. Hemp factories were also being built in Iowa, the closest one to Emmetsburg was located in Algona. Many farms in the area grew hemp for. After the war ended, hemp was once again considered illegal.

Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill legitimizes industrial hemp research. It also defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to conduct research and pilot programs. Currently, there are 24 states that allow hemp to be grown legally.

“The Heartland Hemp Company out of Des Moines, Iowa, Dr. Chris Disbro, and I actually submitted a bill to legislature and received support of five representative allowing the bill to be presented. Unfortunately, instead of going to the agricultural committee, it went to the public safety committee. There is some politics involved there and eventually it died.” Shchanransky said. “However, the seed has been planted and we are here tonight to give you a better understanding of the many uses of industrial hemp, show the potential it has as a rotation cash crop in Iowa, and get support for the legalization of the production of hemp for research in Iowa.”

“Basically, if someone would try and smoke the type of hemp we are talking about, they would get a bad headache and nothing more,” said Shchanransky.

“Hemp is comparable to corn in so many ways.” Shcharansky said. “The major difference is in the revenue hemp has the potential to generate not just to farmers but to the state. For the farmer there is really no start up costs except for seed purchase. It can be rotated in with beans and corn with no real expense in machinery purchases. The same equipment used for corn and beans is used for hemp.”

“Every industrialized nation in the world grows hemp legally except the United States. Farmers are missing out on revenue opportunities.” Shcharansky stated.

“Bio refining sugars from hemp fiber surpass that of corn. DuPont and POET have a conversion rate of 60 percent to sugar, with hemp you have almost 100 percent conversion to sugar,” Shcharansky said.

“How much can you make growing hemp?” asked local farmer Chris Smith.

“Depending on what your seed stock is you could yield a revenue of $315 to $595 per acre.” Shchnarasky said.

“So currently you could process the hemp here in Iowa?” Eric Woodford asked. “Where would the seed come from and where does the cannabinoids come from?”

“Yes. Heartland Hemp Company in Des Moines processes and provides safe, reliable and affordable hemp products, fully conforming to Iowa and federal laws. The majority of seed comes from Canada unless the farmers save his seed for a seed based of his own, this is where most of the expense comes from, the importing of the seed.” Shcharansky said. “CBD (a cannabinoid) comes from the flower top and is used for medical purposes.”

“Is there an advantage to organic over conventional hemp?” asked farmer Marvin Duhn.

“Not really.” Shcharnasky responded. “The seeds cost more, so you get more revenue. It’s all what you want to do.”

“Would this hemp be grown as an annual or a perennial? Woodford asked.

“Hemp is an annual, meaning that it does have to be planted every year,” Scharnasky said.

“So you could potentially get two crops per year.” Stacy Berkland commented.

“It’s possible. If you were growing just for the flower and seed, you would cut it green. For an other use, you cut it dry.” Shcharnasky explained.

When asked about the responses of law enforcement, Shcharnasky had this to say, “When it is first mentioned law enforcement is against the whole idea. Once we go in and explain the difference between hemp and the marijuana that is used recreationally, they really don’t have an issue with the idea.”

On a final note, the Iowa Hemp Association is asking for farmers to sign Farm Bureau letters backing legislation legalizing hemp growth for research in the state of Iowa. They would also like to see people contact their legislators indicating support for hemp legalization.

“We plan to reintroduce our bill to the 2016 legislative session and appreciate your voice being heard.” Shchnaransky concluded.