Forbes: Industrial hemp might be right for Iowa farmers

Boris Shcharansky Industrial Hemp

Source: The Des Moines Register

The next “big thing” for Iowa agriculture could have a home right here in Urbandale. Industrial hemp is enjoying a huge resurgence of interest on the part of industry, farmers, nutritionists and green consumers. Could it be in the mix for Iowa agriculture?

Boris Shcharansky of Heartland Hemp Company in Urbandale is lobbying in Iowa for legislation allowing Iowa farmers to get involved in an industry that has grown from a national market of $250 million in 2011, to nearly $600 million in 2013. The firm is focused on developing specialized hemp plants.

Hemp is used in a staggering number of products, from textiles to building materials to industrial uses. Hemp seeds contain essential fatty acids. Hemp oil is used in salad oil, margarine and food supplements. The list goes on and on.

So is it time for Iowa farmers to cash in on industrial hemp?

While it is legal to import hemp ingredients for processing here, the United States is the only major industrialized country to prohibit large scale commercial production. It was banned in the 1930’s along with marijuana, even though hemp has little THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp proponents say the only thing that happens when you smoke industrialized hemp is a bad headache.

Industrial hemp could have a positive impact on our environment. Hemp grows dense and vigorously. Sunlight cannot penetrate the plants to reach the ground, and this means the crop is normally free of weeds. The deep roots prevent soil erosion. It doesn’t need a lot of pesticide. Hemp could be used in rotation with other crops. It’s been called a “mop crop”, absorbing impurities from the soil.

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