SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM) – An Illinois House committee has passed a measure that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp for commercial purposes, such as to make rope, clothing and other accessories.
State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) acknowledged he’s not the leading authority on agriculture issues, but he said he realizes agriculture is Illinois’ biggest business.
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Dunkin said that adding hemp to the list of crops farmers can grow would go a long way to diversifying the state’s agriculture industry.
House Bill 1383 would require farmers wishing to grow, produce, or sell industrial hemp or related projects to be licensed on a yearly basis through the Department of Agriculture.
The House Agriculture & Conservation Committee endorsed the proposal by an 11-2 vote, sending the measure to the full House.
State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) was one of two representatives to vote no on the measure. Her Western Illinois district is mostly farmland, most of which, she said, is already spoken for.
“Particularly our Asian markets are clamoring for our soybeans,” she explains. “We can’t possibly grow enough soybeans to export on the market.”
Hammond also said she is worried some hemp would be stolen and misused as a hallucinogenic drug.
The Illinois Farm Bureau is on record as supporting the measure, but other agencies such as the Illinois State Police have not weighed in. Hammond said that the only way she’d support the measure is if the state police back it.