Illinois farmers get permission to grow hemp

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SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) - Illinois could soon be back in the hemp business.

A lot of states are looking at hemp production. Illinois is one of the first to make it legal.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed a law to allow farmers to once again grow hemp. The governor said it will benefit Illinois.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance's Rebecca Osland said hemp can be used for plastics, fiber or rope. And it gives farmers another crop option.

"At a time when soybean prices are at a record low, and corn prices have been falling, this would be another crop the farmers can grow to diversify their economic well being," Osland said. "It's also a crop that we are excited about from an environmental perspective."

Osland said hemp requires far fewer chemicals than some other crops.

State Rep. Tim Butler, who helped shepherd the plan through the legislature, said the new program is actually a return to the status quo.

"A century ago, we were a leader in hemp production, leading into World War I and World War II," Butler said. "This is going to allow us to continue to be an ag leader in the nation, with a new product, a new crop that our farmers can grow."

Hemp is not marijuana, Butler is clear on that. In fact, the Illinois Department of Agriculture will test hemp to make sure the levels of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high, is low.

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