Agriculture department 'doing all we can' to make industrial hemp a reality in 2019
The Illinois Department of Agriculture held a hearing for public comment Tuesday regarding proposed rules for industrial hemp.
Tess Little, general counsel for the Department of Agriculture; John Sullivan, the director of the Department of Agriculture; and Jeff Cox, the bureau chief for the Bureau of Medicinal Plants presided over the hearing.
"We've had more enthusiasm about industrial hemp," Sullivan said. "We as a department are doing all we can to move forward in a timely manner. The goal in place is to grow hemp this year and we’re moving ahead."
Sullivan said it’s a lofty goal, but it's what they're hoping to do.
"We want to do this right," Sullivan said.
Cox said the Bureau of Medicinal Plants has consulted with other states to figure out what worked and what didn’t so they could make industrial hemp work in Illinois. Several people who want to become hemp producers voiced concerns with the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) certification.
John Furlow said the AOSCA certification was good in theory, but that because the program in Illinois would be so new, it wouldn't be beneficial for the state. Local farmers also voiced concern with working in parts of the bill.
"I want to make sure this follows the farm bill," Dan Schmalshof said. "This is the first great step in Illinois agriculture to save the family farm."
Jarintzy Lua of the Weed for Warriors Project said, as a Navy veteran, she wanted to speak up about the 22 veterans that die by suicide every day.
"I'm an advocate for vets to use Cannabis to treat disabilities," Lua said. "I want to ask any legislators here to let people use this plant medicinally."
Dan Schetter with the Illinois Industrial Hemp Association said his main concern was that there are going to be a lot of things with harvesting and processing that they will run into that they did not think about.
"We need time to make this go right," Schetter said.
Caleb Kotewa said he was concerned with the five-day harvest window to which farmers are supposed to alert the Department of Agriculture 30 days in advance. He was worried about being fined when anything could cause that harvest window to change.
"An act of God at any time could change that," Kotewa said.
Little said the public comment period would end on Feb. 11 and urged the people to email, write or fax in any more comments before then.