With the growing season just about to begin, applications are now available for Illinois farmers to grow industrial hemp this year, and the state will be following up to make sure farmers are growing what they say they’re growing, but they’re likely going to have to send it out of state for processing for the time being.
Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director John Sullivan said applications are open now for what he said will be an addition to Illinois’ array of crops. The application costs $100. Licenses range from one year for $375 to three-year licenses for $1,000. There are no caps, Sullivan said, but there will be checks.
“You’re going to identify where the field is going to be and then our staff, our inspectors will be out there, periodically throughout the year,” Sullivan said. “We will be testing the crop to make sure that as you folks probably know hemp has to be under .03 on the [tetrahydrocannabinol or] THC, and so we’re going to be testing it throughout the year to make sure that it stays under those limits.”
Sullivan said because hemp can be planted in small footprints he expects it to be planted in not just rural areas, but also urban areas. He couldn’t immediately estimate how many jobs would be created from the new industry, but Sullivan said there would be “tremendous opportunities” for Illinois farmers.
There won’t be a cap on how many licenses will be approved to grow it, but Sullivan said Illinois is a bit behind the curve compared to some other states in the region.
“We have no processing in the state of Illinois right now,” Sullivan said. “There is in some surrounding states, Kentucky, I think Michigan, Wisconsin.”
Sullivan said not much is known about the marketplace and what the price per bushel would be, but he said Illinois farmers will benefit from the new crop.
“Entrepreneurs can open new facilities ready to process hemp, dozens have already said that plan to do so,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “And thanks to our status as a transportation hub for the midwest and for the nation we can sell and ship this product across the country and across the world.”
Pritzker said the move will create jobs.
Sullivan said the uses for industrial hemp are broad.
“The fiber side can be used as a substitute or a different form of plastic, and then the other side, the other type of hemp that will be grown, will be for the oil, the [cannabidiol or] CBD oil that you see quite common around the entire country.”