The Illinois Department of Agriculture will host a hemp summit on December 17 in Springfield. It is aimed at bringing together farmers, processing companies, and others to share tips and tricks about the plant. The summit will happen at the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Hemp, unlike its THC-rich cousin marijuana, can be used in thousands of products, from clothing to concrete. After being prohibited decades ago, the plant was legalized last year and can now be grown and processed throughout the country.
Jeff Cox specializes in hemp and medical cannabis regulation at Illinois’ agriculture department. He says this year’s growing season was more difficult than most.
“But we had some very successful hemp farmers, and we had some that weren’t so successful,” said Cox. “We want to get all of these folks in the same room and allow them to talk, and figure out what worked and what didn’t work.”
Presentations will focus on farming techniques and hemp processing, even the market outlook of the hemp industry.
“There’s kind of a misnomer out there that people think that hemp is very easy to grow: all you have to do is just throw it in the ground, it’ll pop up and you’ll harvest it,” said Cox. “But because we don’t have any approved pesticides or herbicides, it’s not quite that simple.”
Cox said the biggest challenge hemp producers faced in the last year was a shortage of seeds.
Officials said those who wish to attend the December 17 summit can register online.
The American hemp industry is now worth just shy of $1 billion, according to market researchers at the Hemp Business Journal.