Farm Bureau Submits Comments on Industrial Hemp Production
Cook County Farm Bureau® submitted the following comments on Illinois Department of Agriculture’s proposed rules for the cultivation, storage and processing of industrial hemp:
Provided below are Cook County Farm Bureau’s (CCFB) comments on the proposed rules for industrial hemp in Illinois.
Cook County Farm Bureau’s policy has long supported the legal production of industrial hemp. Farm Bureau supported the passage and ultimate signing of the Illinois Industrial Hemp Act. We appreciate the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) publishing the proposed rules on first notice. However, like our colleagues at the Illinois Farm Bureau® we are concerned that any delays in the rulemaking process will mean that Cook County and Illinois farmers will be unable to secure a license in time to begin growing industry hemp in 2019.
Farm Bureau also supported the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which amended federal law to further reduce the regulation of and the production of industrial hemp. To streamline the process, we urge IDOA to ensure that Illinois’ rules align with the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Specific to Illinois’s draft rules:
Section 1200.20- General Provisions
Paragraph a) prohibits any person from cultivating industrial hemp in the State without a license. The license requirement in the proposed rule is overly broad and may create confusion. The proposed rule appears to require the farmer, any family member, or employee who may be planting, growing or harvesting industrial hemp to be licensed. This requirement should be clarified so that family members or employees may assist with cultivation activities under a single license and single license fee.
Similarly, Paragraph b) prohibits any person from processing or handling industrial hemp without receiving a processor/handler registration from IDOA. Again, the proposed rules appear to be unnecessarily broad and require any person or employee who may process, possess, transport, or store industrial hemp to be registered with IDOA. This requirement should be better defined.
Given the definition of “handle” in the proposed rules, the rules appear to create a registration requirement in order for a farmer to store industrial hemp on-site where it was grown. “Cultivate” does not include storing the crop, so a farmer would be required to get a registration to store industrial hemp even on the site already licensed for cultivation. Industrial hemp is often left in the field to allow the hemp fibers to break down through a process called “retting.” This requirement must be clarified so that farmers licensed to grow industrial hemp are not required to be additionally registered to store industrial hemp.
Paragraph i) requires each non-contiguous land to have a separate license fee. We appreciate that the license fee is good for three-years, however, farmers may wish to rotate their industrial hemp fields, much like they do with other crops. While Section 1200.60 Paragraph a) allows an alteration to the application for a lesser fee, it is unclear if that would include a change to a separate non-contiguous land area.
Section 1200.30- Application and licensure
Paragraph a) requires the applicant to submit a license application at least 90 days prior to planting. This amount of lead time is excessive and should be reduced. Paragraph d) of this section requires IDOA to approve or deny the application within 30 days, so the 90 days of lead time is not needed for IDOA to consider the application. This is of great concern with the 2019 growing season. Under this scenario, if the proposed rules are not approved until after April 1, 2019 and a farmer applies immediately, s/he will not be able to plant until after June 30, 2019. Depending on a farmer’s location, a June planting date may be beyond the normal planting window and negatively impact the crop. CCFB would suggest that the application lead time be shortened to 60 days.
As the county’s largest general farm organization, Cook County Farm Bureau® is dedicated to bridging the gap between farmers and urban consumers. Through education programs targeting youth and their parents and programs designed to connect farmers with potential consumers, Farm Bureau members are actively engaging in conversations about food and the shared values between farmers and consumers.
Members are encouraged to contact the Cook County Farm Bureau at 708-354-3276 for additional information.