The Iowa Hemp Association is hosting an informational meeting in Spencer tonight.

“The Iowa Hemp Association has been working now for about five or six years to push for agricultural and industrial as a third major rotational crop and commodity here in Iowa,” says Chris Disbro, the association’s founder and president. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to the reintroduction of this crop as a staple of Iowa agriculture.”

Industrial hemp was once grown throughout the country and used to make clothing, rope and even paper, but it was outlawed in 1970 because the plant is part of the cannabis family. The 2014 Farm Bill has allowed hemp to be grown for research or as a registered cash crop. Thirty states have legalized hemp production. Iowa has not. Disbro hopes to change that.

“We do a lot of educational events,” Disbro says, “bring in experts from other states where they’re already growing it and try to inform the community and lawmakers at large about the benefits of this crop.”

Lawmakers in the neighboring states of Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota have voted to allow hemp production. A Minnesota farmer who grew 80 acres of hemp this past year will be in Spencer tonight at the forum. In addition to the emerging market for hemp-based products, the Iowa Hemp Association argues the plant helps prevent soil erosion in farm fields and its roots trap fertilizers that would otherwise wind up in nearby lakes and streams.

Tonight’s event will be held at the Clay County Regional Events Center in Spencer. It starts at 5 p.m. Those interested in attending are asked to register on the Iowa Hemp Association’s Facebook page.

(Reporting by Katie Johnson, KICD, Spencer; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)