Senate OKs industrial hemp plan

2017-05-10 | Jacksonville Journal-Courier

May 09--The state Senate has voted to allow Illinois farmers to grow industrial hemp. The legislation now awaits a vote in the House.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Illinois Farmers Union initiated the bill and collaborated with the Illinois Environmental Council and Illinois Farm Bureau in a coalition of farm and environmental interests to bring hemp back to the state.

There are at least 25,000 different products that could be made from hemp, from plastic alternatives to hempcrete and particle board, food, cosmetics, rope, clothing and more, according to North Dakota State University research.

Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, sponsored the legislation, which gained bipartisan support with chief co-sponsor Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview. While Illinois passed an industrial hemp bill in 2014 in response to the Farm Bill, that legislation only allowed state universities offering four-year agricultural sciences degrees to become licensed and not farmers. No applications have been filed by any university.

Federal authorities have issued a statement clarifying that state agriculture departments could license farmers to participate in industrial hemp programs if state law allowed.

"This legislation gives Illinois farmers the freedom to try growing a crop that's good for their bottom line and can keep our waterways cleaner," Illinois Stewardship Alliance Executive Director Liz Moran Stelk said.

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