Industrial hemp, Colorado

Industrial hemp is harvested in Colorado in this file photo. 

DES MOINES — Iowa farmers would be allowed to grow industrial hemp as a crop under legislation that Monday cleared the state Senate.

Senators voted 49-1 to send the Iowa House a bill authorizing the production, processing and marketing of industrial hemp in Iowa subject to federal approval and under the guidance of the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The measure was guided by the U.S. Farm Bill, which effectively legalized hemp production.

“This is a new era in agriculture. This is something we haven’t seen since World War II,” said Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan. “But it’s better and it truly is looking at the future of Iowa agriculture.”

Senate File 599 would create the Iowa Hemp Act and set up a fund managed by state ag officials for fees, appropriations and other revenue that would be generated to help administer the new activity.

“The Department of Ag and the Department of Public Safety are working hand in hand to make hemp Iowa’s third commodity a safe reality,” said Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford. “I have been contacted by future hemp farmers who are ready to start producing and see the market for hemp products.”

Iowa is one of just seven states without an industrial hemp program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Industrial hemp is a plant in the cannabis family. The plant’s seeds and stalks have myriad commercial uses, including in building materials, paper, textiles, oils and food.

“There are opportunities out there that we don’t even know yet,” said Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, who noted he believes the modifications that have been agreed to will lead to passage this year by the Iowa House, where the issue previously thawed.

Sen. Zach Whiting, R-Spirit Lake, was the only senator to oppose SF 599.

If the bill is approved and signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Shipley said it would not be until the 2020 growing season that hemp production as an alternative crop would get underway. Iowa’s law would take effect July 1 and include a limit of 40 acres per farmer.

For decades it was illegal to grow hemp, which is a cousin to marijuana, even though hemp has only tiny traces of the psychoactive element that gives marijuana users the high effect.

Lawmakers said they are being careful to design a program that would specifically allow for the growth of industrial hemp and not marijuana, and provide punishments for anyone who might attempt to cross that line.

Justice systems funding

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Senators voted 32-18 to approve a justice systems budget bill providing an $8.2 million increase for public safety, corrections, prosecutorial and other state services for a total outlay of $579 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Included in Senate File 615 were proposals to add $3.4 million in areas that would include funding an additional 15 State Patrol troopers and 10 agents in the Division of Criminal Investigation.

The measure also includes a $2.5 million supplemental appropriation in the current fiscal year for indigent defense.

Court system appropriation

Senators voted 35-15 to approve a $184.2 million appropriation to fund Iowa’s court system next fiscal year with an overall $3.6 million increase. Senate File 616 would fund a 2 percent salary increase for judges and magistrates.

The budget bills now go to the Iowa House.

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