A lot of farmers are focusing on this year’s harvest, but some next year there might be another crop making a return to Illinois soil
Rachel Berry who farms near Princeton, Illinois told Local 4 News she spent months working to get the industrial hemp law passed.
She told Local 4 Illinois was once a leader in hemp production during World War II and bringing it back does more than helping the economy.
Hemp was banned across the country in 1970 because it was considered a non-psychedelic cousin of marijuana.
Berry said in addition to advocating for the law, her months were spent hosting educational sessions to help people learn more beyond that relationship.
“I have gone out into the community several times, more than several times, and got nothing but positive feedback,” said Princeton farmer Rachel Berry.
Now it’s nearly back, she said there is no better place for it to take root than close to home.
Berry said, “This is a farming community, Bureau County is a big farming community.”
In that community, Berry tells Local 4 News, she’s ready to see hemp sprout.
Berry said, “I have a 13-acre farm here in Princeton, and I’ve so excited to be able to experiment with hemp, so others in the community what hemp can do.”
But right now, it’s a bit more waiting as the Illinois Department of Agriculture is in the four-month process to plant and grow the regulations to govern hemp farming.
Berry, who is also a board member of the Illinois Industrial Hemp Association, is working with the group to advocate for how the final draft turns out.
Berry “Hoping and helping to influence looking out for small farmers. A lot of the bills that we look at in other states, they’re not super focused on small farmers, and there are a lot of small farmers around here that want a piece of this hemp pie. We want solutions to the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that we have to spray. We want solutions to you know the prices of corn and soy being really, really low.”
Berry told Local Four News, she hopes to see that process finished come the new year and seeding to start in the spring.
She said while it provides another option for farmers facing low grain prices, the main reason she wants to farm hemp is the environment.
Berry said, “I study regenerative agriculture and permaculture, so naturally hemp is something I’ve come across.”
She added, “My property was monocrop for many years, so I guess the biggest draw for me is what can I use hemp for on my property that I can see the effects for the environment. That’s really what I want to check out is how can I stop the erosion on my property and demonstrate that for others. How can I clean up my creek. “
Berry said hemp requires no pesticides, helps restore soil health as a rotation crop and address erosion and water quality.
“We can see what’s happening to the environment.” Berry said, “When you’re a farmer out in your field, you can see what’s happening. A lot of us, we want something different.”
Something different Berry said can go a long way.
Berry said, “Let’s let our farmers grow them for ourselves and keep them here. There’s a lot we can do with hemp. Food. cloths, medicine, building materials.”
Berry will be at a conference this weekend learning about building homes with materials made with hemp.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture told Local 4 News when those rules are made public in the next four months, there will be a 45 day public comment period.
Federal lawmakers are also considering a bill that would legalize industrial hemp across the country
Illinois joined several states including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma to allow farmers to grow hemp.
Iowa also had a bill, but it didn’t pass.