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Letters to the Editor

Support the growth of industrial hemp

To the editor:

The Polo Hemp Mill in Illinois began operation on Nov. 20, 1943. At that time, there were over 3,200 growers of hemp in the state, and farmers were urged to grow for the war effort.

First, they needed assurance that the price of the crop was fair and that their equipment would be adequate. Educational materials and propaganda videos such as “Victory for Hemp” [available on YouTube] were sponsored by the U.S. government and presented at local high schools.

Assured their work would be backed by our military and economy, farmers joined in the effort to produce the crop — something entirely new to the area’s agriculture.

Considering this happened that long ago, 74 years ago this month, in fact, we see a remarkably similar situation in the relationship between farmers and industrial hemp in Illinois. This time around, a massive effort is required to establish sustainability and resilience within our agricultural system and the next economy, not the war effort.

Our farmers again need assurance that hemp is a viable crop for their rotation. They need to know that hemp will not only benefit their pocketbooks as a fiber crop with 25,000-plus uses, but it will also help restore land and water.

It requires only 25 inches to 35 inches of rainfall on average and no fertilizers or pesticides to grow; it thrives in marginal soil and removes excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fields, reducing seepage into waterways. It can also replace paper products, eliminating deforestation that encroaches on fragile ecosystems. These qualities make hemp a powerful ally in environmental restoration. (Did I mention it can help curb world hunger?)

The market for hemp products is vast. It includes durable fabrics capable of replacing chemical-laded cottons and synthetic blends (that rot in landfills as a by-product of today’s fast fashion); strong, inflammable, eco-friendly building materials; natural cosmetics; petroleum-free bioplastics and biofuels; beneficial, non-psychoactive medicines; and nutrient-dense foods. It is also growing rapidly, creating a plethora of economic opportunities.

As a first-generation farmer, and a woman, I am so thrilled to have a future in hemp on my horizon. My devotion to this plant stems from a realization that regenerative agriculture is my path to an honest living. I humbly strive to lead by example so that others will start to give back to our planet.

Industrial hemp is currently illegal to grow in Illinois. With your help, we can change that. Please look up you representatives, call or email them, and let them know that you support legislation (Senate Bill 1294) that allows Illinois farmers to cultivate hemp!

If you are interested in learning more about hemp or how you can help the cause, please email me at ilindustrialhemp@gmail.com.

Rachel Berry,

Princeton

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