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To the Editor:

Last May, Illinois passed legislation to remove restrictions on industrial hemp, and in August, Gov. Rauner signed the bill into law. We are grateful to our elected officials who worked to pass the law, and we’ve been waiting patiently for the first draft of the rules.

On Friday, the rules were made public, on the heels of the Federal farm bill, which removed industrial hemp from the Controlled Substance Act. Industrial hemp and hemp-derived products including cannabidiol, or CBD, are now legal to grow, transport and sell. The federal law prohibits interference with interstate transport of hemp or hemp products. Farmers, processors, small business entrepreneurs and large corporations are rejoicing in the potential of a new crop taking root across the state. Hemp is the strongest, most versatile natural fiber in the world, known to have over 50,000 different uses.

It’s no secret Southern Illinois has been struggling for some time. Small farms are on the endangered list as children grow up and move away. We are a region that was built on the back of logging, coal, oil and gas, prisons and big ag. We export raw goods, only to buy it all back again from a multinational corporation in the form of a finished product, sending our hard earned cash back out of state. Now we have an opportunity to end this capital leakage.

Hemp is the golden carrot dangling in front of our eyes. The snake oil salesmen are lurking in the shadows, talking five figures for an acre of CBD hemp. Farmers hurt by tariffs and decades of monocrops are eager to try a new commodity crop and hope it will change the bottom line. Let’s be smart about the rules and protect family farms of Illinois, especially the small farmers.

We are excited to see that with as little as one quarter of an acre, one can file for a license and begin growing their dreams. If one plans to grow one acre or a thousand, the cost of a license is the same. There is a $100 application fee, and if accepted, a $1,000 for a license, which would be valid for three years.

The state welcomes comments on the draft rules until Feb. 11 at https://bit.ly/2Rppr0Q. Spring planting time is just around the corner. Here’s hoping the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s rules for industrial hemp sets the foundation for growing and building a stronger Southern Illinois future.

Tabitha Tripp

Southern Illinois Growers Network

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