The Illinois Department of Agriculture has submitted their final draft of rules for the industrial hemp program. There were a few noteworthy changes made from the initial draft that was posted back in late Dec. 2018.
Part of the rulemaking process includes a public comment period. The department held an open meeting to get feedback from farmers interested in growing hemp back in mid-February. One recurring concern at that time was a 90-day wait period between a farmer submitting their application to grow the crop and when they would be allowed to put seed in the ground. Several of the farmers who spoke said this would make it very difficult to harvest a crop in 2019 and suggested shortening that window.
Illinois Director of Agriculture John Sullivan said the deparment removed it completely: “We realized that if we kept that in there that there wasn’t going to be any hemp planted this year. It was going to be too late for us. That was really a concern."
According to the final draft of the rules, once an application is submitted, the department will have 30 days to either issue a license or deny the application. Jeff Cox, the program manager for the IDOA, said he hopes to issue licenses in under 30 days, but that will depend on the influx of applications.
Another concern at the public hearing was seed certification. The initial draft required farmers to use seed that was certified by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). But, those interested in extracting CBD oil from their hemp crop said there were few viable options to do that on AOSCA's list.
The new rules allow farmers to also use seed that has "a certificate of analysis from an accredited certified laboratory from a state with a regulated industrial hemp program." This means there will be more options available to farmers who are looking specifically to harvest CBD oil.
The orginal draft of rules was also fairly restrictive for who could apply for the program, but now only those who have been convicted of "any controlled substances related felony in the 10 years prior to the date of application" are ineligible. This actually matches what is stated in the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the federal government which legalized hemp.
"When we wrote the rules at the department, the federal farm bill had not yet passed and so there were some contradictions with what the federal farm bill had with regard to hemp and the state bill, so we reconciled those," said Sullivan.
"It's a new program. Right now, there are some folks out there that say 'oh, the requirements are a little bit too restrictive.' Listen, it's a new program we want to make sure it's done right."
Sullivan said as the market expands there will likely be changes, but he feels confident in the rules submitted. Once they are approved, the department will begin accepting applications "almost immediately."
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) is scheduled to review the rules April 9th.