The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation wants to look into adding industrial hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant, into Iowa's crop rotation.
On Tuesday, Farm Bureau delegates meeting in Des Moines voiced tentative approval of a resolution supporting research of industrial hemp, which was widely grown in Iowa before a 1937 federal law outlawed its cultivation.
Industrial hemp has much less of the psychoactive chemical THC than its cousin in the cannabis family known as marijuana, said Bondurant farmer Tom Towers, who introduced the resolution Tuesday.
"This is not the kind of hemp you smoke, folks," Towers said in introducing the resolution. "We know marijuana isn't such a hot item, but industrial hemp has had the hallucinogens removed so you can inhale it if you want."
Bill Horan, a Calhoun County farmer, said the American Farm Bureau Federation approved a similar resolution at its annual meeting last January.
"We want Iowa State University to get started doing the research," Horan said. "In 1937, when hemp was outlawed, all the seedstock and germplasm was destroyed."
Other countries, most notably Germany, are far ahead of the United States in growing hemp for industrial uses, Horan said, and other states have research projects going.
"We need to catch up," he said.
Industrial hemp is worth looking into as a possible way to diversify agriculture and add another cash crop to Iowa's Big Two crops of corn and soybeans.
"We may be on to a legitimate third crop here," Horan said. Horan said the United States used to grow a lot of hemp for industrial use.
The Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp, he said, and Henry Ford made a car body out of soybeans and hemp.
Paper made from hemp can last 1,500 years, he said, while paper from wood pulp lasts just 25 years.
The Farm Bureau resolution was promoted by Roger Gipple of Des Moines, who owns farmland and is a member of several farm and environmental organizations.
Gipple said industrial hemp can be grown without pesticides, unlike cotton, and is better for the environment.
"As environmentalists, we've prohibited farmers from doing so many things," Gipple said. "Here's something they can do. We can give them hope instead of fear."
And, he said, rural communities could process the hemp into industrial products and create jobs in Iowa's small towns.
"This could be the basis of a whole new value-added industry in rural communities," he said.
HEMP PRODUCTION + Iowa Farm Bureau supports research of growing hemp. Fiber products: + Textiles * Denim * Shoes * Working clothes + Technical textiles * Twine * Canvas bags * Carpets + Other industrial products * Compression-molded parts * Brake/clutch linings * Caulking + Paper * Cardboard and packaging * Newsprint * Fine and specialtiy papers + Building materials * Insulation * Fiberglass * Cement blocks + Foods * Salad oil * Margarine * Ganola SOURCE: Nova Institute, Germany
Delegates at the group's annual meeting tentatively approved a resolution Tuesday supporting research into hemp as a farm crop for industrial use. But hemp supporters first had to do some explaining to the normally conservative Farm Bureau delegation.
``It's against the law because of the marijuana aspect hemp has. This is a different product,'' said Tom Towers, a farmer from Bondurant. ``It doesn't do any good to smoke it.''
``It's a smaller leaf. It doesn't go as far,'' Merrill Lischer of Bedford said amid laughter from the 100 delegates.
``Hemp isn't just for fence rows any more,'' said Bill Horan, a Rockwell City area farmer who displayed cloth, paper and building tiles made from the plant. Hemp was widely used in the United States before being outlawed in 1937 because of its association with marijuana.
Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp plants have virtually no intoxicating properties, Horan said.
``This stuff is worthless to anybody who wants to smoke it,'' Horan said.
He said some other states are already exploring hemp production, and that Iowa State University should be urged to join the effort.
``I think we may be on to an actual, legitimate third crop'' to join corn and soybeans in Iowa farm fields, Horan said.
``Hemp can be grown virtually anywhere,'' Horan said. ``This could very well be a serious crop for Iowa in the future. We need to catch up with other states.''
The Farm Bureau delegates will take final votes on the hemp proposal and other resolutions on Thursday at the conclusion of their three-day annual meeting.