ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill on Saturday legalizing the growth of industrial hemp by Illinois farmers.
One southern Illinois farmer says it comes at a time when the agricultural economy could use a boost.
"When you hurt us, you hurt the whole economy," said Farmer Jim Hood. "We are not getting rich, we are just surviving right now and that's not a very good place to be."
Hood says right now is a tough time financially the industry.
"Corn right now is terrible," he said. "So it's at a level were you can't make, and we need something to spur us on a little bit."
Governor Rauner says roughly 38 states including Missouri and Kentucky have allowed or are considering allowing cultivation of the same crop.
"Our farmers should have this option as well," Rauner said. "This new state licensure program begins that process."
Hood says having another crop diversifies the options for making money.
"I'm happy that we can have another crop in there, that would be awesome, anything to boost grain price of grain back up where it should be, Hood said. "This makes life easier on everybody."
Hood believes this bill could grow the economy, but Marc Lamczyk with University of Illinois Extension says he does not see an advantage right now.
"We're going to have to have some more data and some more research, and as of right now, I don't see it as a big economic boom to the farm economy of southern Illinois," Lamczyk said. "It's a lot of variables in here that we just don't know at this time."
Unknown variables like acres of land, fertility requirements, insecticides, equipment, or permits. However, Lamczyk says does see the silverlining in the new legislation.
"Getting other farmers to think about alternative crops that maybe could help them increase their bottom line, increase their cash flows," said Lamczyk. "Provide another source of income at different times of the year."
Farmers like Hood are not completely familiar with the production process, but he says he's willing to learn. "I don't know anything about it, but I'm willing to learn," Hood said.
Rauner's office says, the Industrial Hemp Act, effective immediately creates a state licensure program through the Department of Agriculture that enables those who desire to grow the crop to do so.
The state Department of Agriculture shall establish rules for THC-level testing of industrial hemp crops.