SIBLEY—Growing hemp will be legal in Iowa as early as next year, which is why Chad Smith spoke to about 30 farmers Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Sibley Senior Center.
Smith, who is the chief executive officer of 119 CBD, explained his company works directly with prospective hemp farmers to learn the ropes of growing the crop responsibly and set them up for success in the emerging hemp and cannabidiol market.
“There’s a lot of analysts that believe it’s the greatest emerging market that we’ll see in our lifetimes,” he said. “Sales reached $1.9 billion in 2018, and analysts are predicting CBD sales will reach about $16 billion by 2025.”
Developing cannabidiol or CBD products is the primary retail focus of 119 CBD, with the aim of providing alternative treatment options for people living with chronic pain or illness.
Smith clarified that unlike some CBD products on the market, the products his company produces contain zero percent THC, which is the main psychoactive chemical in the hemp plant.
The 2018 federal Farm Bill, which legalized hemp production pending U.S. Department of Agriculture approval and approval from individual states, requires the level of THC in legally grown hemp must not exceed 0.3 percent. By having no THC, however, Smith said his company’s products have a competitive advantage since they can be sold in places around the world that prohibit the chemical.
When it comes to working with farmers, 119 CBD offers preharvest contracts to growers to ensure they have someone to sell their yield to after it is harvested. Smith said this would prevent situations he has heard about where hemp growers harvested the crop without having a seller lined up.
“We’re getting phone calls every day with folks that grew this year and have nowhere to sell their crop,” Smith said. “It’s crazy, there’s millions of pounds of biomass out there, and they don’t know where they’re going to go with it.”
Even with a preharvest contract, there are other risks involved with growing hemp such planting the wrong variety of hemp seed, cross-contamination and flooding. On the legal side, growers also must be careful not to accidentally grow hemp that is “hot” or that exceeds the 0.3 percent THC limit.
Steve Gruhn, president of Freedom Ag based in Spirit Lake, said he got in touch with 119 CBD about a month ago.
“We’ve been talking a lot. I wanted to vet them out, make sure they’re real. The guys are real,” he said, noting some purported CBD companies are frauds.
During the meeting, Gruhn provided insight into how growing hemp differs from growing crops such as corn and soybeans. For example, he said hemp plants need more room to grow properly and to be maintained, meaning farmers must change how they view their harvest size.
“The first thing you need to do is get out of your mind that you’re going to farm acres of CBD hemp. You have to think of, ‘I’m going to farm the number of plants and the number of square feet,’” Gruhn said.
Smith and Gruhn answered questions from the audience regarding the process of growing, harvesting and drying hemp.
Individual farmers can decide the exact means in which they want to grow the crop, Smith said, whether those be manual or automated processes. After harvest, farmers working with 119 CBD must dry the crop and take it to one of five CBD extraction sites the company works with.
JJ Wagenaar, a cattle farmer from Granville, asked about the legality of transporting hemp across state lines after Smith said the closet extraction site is in Colorado.
Gruhn said he thinks transporting hemp is legal in Nebraska as long as the grower has a license to produce the crop.
However, Smith added the legality of transporting the crop still is muddled and urged the audience to contact their lawmakers to push for clearer legislation regarding the matter.