State taking comments on proposed industrial hemp rules

Proposed regulations define the crop, provide framework for licensing, inspection and testing.

Illinois Farm Bureau provided input to IDOA during the drafting of the proposed rules, is reviewing the newly released proposal and plans to submit comments to IDOA, said Bill Bodine, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of state legislation. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee Hemp Farm, LLC)

By Kay Shipman

Starting New Year’s Eve, the state provided a first glimpse of proposed rules to license industrial hemp in Illinois, and the clock started ticking on a 45-day comment period.      

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) drafted the rules to comply with legislation signed Aug. 25 by Gov. Bruce Rauner and the 2018 farm bill that included an industrial hemp section, according to Jeff Cox, head of IDOA’s medicinal plant bureau.

“The 2018 farm bill made industrial hemp legal,” Cox said. Under the new farm bill, individual states must develop regulations for licensing, testing, sampling and inspections of industrial hemp production, according to Cox. 

The new state law allows IDOA to license individuals or corporations to cultivate industrial hemp and to register individuals or corporations to process industrial hemp.

Illinois Farm Bureau provided input to IDOA during the drafting of the proposed rules, is reviewing the newly released proposal and plans to submit comments to IDOA, said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation.

Cox summarized the proposed rules as defining industrial hemp and providing a framework for licensing, inspection and testing processes “to make sure someone does not inadvertently grow a crop with excess THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). If that happens, there would be a destruction process of what we would do.”

Proposed rules include license and registration fees. Cox described the application and license fees as “small” and said those are to cover IDOA administrative costs.

“It is important we make this process something at least all farmers in Illinois can participate in,” Cox said. “It is important it is open to everybody in the state of Illinois.”

IDOA plans to offer online license applications and credit card payment systems, Cox added.

Public comments will be reviewed by IDOA staff and legislator members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Cox said comments will be taken into consideration and additions or deletions may be made to the proposed rules.

The proposed rules will then be published a second time, which begins another 45-day period for JCAR members to consider the proposal. This consideration may include additional public comments on the rule and a JCAR committee hearing, during which Cox expected to be questioned about why certain rules were written and whether the proposal meets statutory requirements.       

Following state approval, the new rules must be sent to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for his approval if Illinois wants to operate under federal rules.

“Once the secretary has approved each state’s scheme, it is my understanding we can start issuing licenses to Illinois farmers,” Cox said.

Judging by calls to IDOA, farmer interest is keen.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook since August (when the legislation was signed),” Cox said. “It’s important for Illinois farmers to understand this is a regulated crop and they cannot just go out and buy hemp seed tomorrow and start planting. They do have to have a license.”  

To read and comment on proposed industrial hemp rules, visit IDOA at bit.ly/ProposedIndustrialHempRules and click on the “Proposed Industrial Hemp Rules Published in Illinois Register” icon at the top of the page.

IOCI-Radio (Illinois Office of Communication and Information) contributed to this report.

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