Pritzker foresees $1B hemp market
Dept. of Agriculture selling licenses to grow, process industrial hemp
By Ted Cox
Illinois is open for business when it comes to industrial hemp.
The state Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it is accepting license applications to grow and process industrial hemp in time for the upcoming growing season.
Hemp is basically marijuana without the active ingredient that gets users high. It can be used as fiber to manufacture products from ropes to containers, or it can produce cannabidiol oil, increasingly used in cooking and some mild medicines.
The state legalized hemp last year, and the Agriculture Department began setting regulations for its growth and processing earlier this year. Congress authorized pilot programs for hemp with its 2014 Farm Bill, and fully legalized it with the new Farm Bill signed into law by President Trump at the end of last year.
Which comes first, the growing or the market for it? Well, it appears the growing comes first, as there’s yet to be a market established for industrial hemp. But Gov. Pritzker projects it as a billion-dollar business.
“As governor, I will ensure Illinois remains at the forefront of what it means to be a 21st-century agricultural economy," Pritzker said in a statement issued Tuesday. "Industrial hemp is a potentially billion-dollar industry that Illinois will now take part in. From farming and processing to sales and exports, this will have a massive impact on our state's economy.”
“Industrial hemp is a potentially billion-dollar industry that Illinois will now take part in.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
State Agriculture Director John Sullivan said the interest is already there among farmers.
“Since the passage of the Industrial Hemp Act last year, no single issue has generated more interest at the Illinois Department of Ag from Illinois farmers, individuals, and business owners than the growing and processing of industrial hemp," Sullivan said. "Our staff has worked diligently to answer questions, complete the rule-making process, and provide a user-friendly application process — all in time to plant hemp this growing season. We are excited to watch this industry grow and provide job-creation opportunities.”
License applications are available online through the Department of Agriculture. Fees are the same to grow or process industrial hemp, with savings to be gained only if one opts for a multiyear license. Fees are $375 for one year, $700 for two, and $1,000 for three.
The Illinois Farm Bureau welcomed the move as a longtime advocate for industrial hemp. “The Illinois Farm Bureau is pleased that farmers will now be able to apply for a license to grow industrial hemp in Illinois,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “We appreciate the support of Gov. Pritzker and the hard work of Director Sullivan and his staff making the license applications available in time for the 2019 planting season.
“Our organization has supported legalizing industrial hemp production for more than two decades,” he added. “We are excited for the opportunities this crop may provide to the farmers who have an interest in its production.”