Hemp could be in play as a new crop option for farmers in Illinois if a bill expanding its production passes the General Assembly.
Bill Bodine, associate director of state legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said Senate Bill 2298 would allow farmers to begin growing industrial hemp.
“It is a bill that the Illinois Farm Bureau supports, though it is not our initiative,” Bodine said. “It would authorize the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp in the state of Illinois.”
The 2014 Federal Farm Bill authorized state departments of agriculture to conduct research on industrial hemp, Bodine said. In 2015, Illinois passed a law for the state universities with agriculture programs to study hemp. SB 2298 would expand the pilot program and license the program for farmers.
Bodine said hemp was still considered illegal and there was no way of knowing the financial incentive, but it could allow farmers to gain an additional revenue stream.
“We have traditional commodities, they might produce in corn and soybeans, you know, they may produce fruits and vegetables,” Bodine said. “This could provide an additional crop that they could grow that might allow them to diversify their income.”
Bodine said there was a need to educate people that hemp is different from marijuana and does not contain the same intoxicating levels of THC. He said the product used to be legal during World War II.
“As an example, during World War II, when hemp was needed for things like rope and textiles, it was a crop that was grown then and since become illegal,” Bodine said. “We are looking to change that,”
Bodine said if farmers wanted to get involved in the process, which is still in negotiations, they can reach out to their local senator.
“They might be able to reach out to their local state senator and encourage them to vote for a bill legalizing the production of industrial hemp, should it come to the floor,” Bodine said.