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Iowa Group studying
industrial hemp as crop

A Farm Bureau resolution supports research of the crop,
which was widely grown in Iowa before being outlawed in 1937.

by Jerry Perkins, Register Farm Editor

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.



  • Denim
  • Shoes
  • Working clothes

Technical textiles

  • Twine
  • Canvas bags
  • Carpets

Other industrial products

  • Compression-molded parts
  • Brake/clutch linings
  • Caulking


  • Cardboard and packaging
  • Newsprint
  • Fine and specialtiy papers

Building materials

  • Insulation
  • Fiberglass
  • Cement blocks


  • Salad oil
  • Margarine
  • Ganola

SOURCE: Nova Institute, Germany

"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.

The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, December 4, 1996, Page 10S

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This page last updated on 16 April 1999.