PEKIN, Ill. — Although Illinois’ regulatory rules are not yet in place, a free industrial hemp forum is set to help potential growers prepare for the coming season.

Experts will gather at the Zeller Banquet Center in Pekin from noon to 3 p.m. Jan. 18 to talk in detail about policy, agronomy, marketing opportunities and more.

While the forum is organized and hosted by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council on behalf of the region, Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Stewardship Alliance are assisting in this opportunity that will be presented from a statewide perspective.

The alliance was the entity behind the gathering information and leading the legislative effort behind Illinois’ laws allowing for industrial hemp production.

Final details in approving the regulatory process, including the need for any growers to secure a state license, are expected to be complete in April.

In the meantime, Illinois producers are eagerly awaiting direction whether they should prepare to plant the state’s first hemp crop beginning this May. This is one aspect that will be mentioned at the forum.

One potential grower who is attending the forum is Rachel Berry of Princeton. While she plans to buy her seed “as soon as possible,” she has other concerns that she hopes will be addressed at the gathering.

“I hope to learn about businesses that are out there looking to buy hemp, and I want to know about the market projections for Illinois,” Berry said.

While the forum initially started with a local focus, increasing interest has broadened the agenda.

“The forum will focus on the opportunity for the Greater Peoria region, as that is our service area, but in general is relevant to all of Illinois,” noted Tory Dahlhoff of the council.

As the forum date nears, Dahlhoff is hearing from more experts. Although the agenda is essentially finalized, she is encouraging all who are interested to attend, bring materials that can be copied at the venue and plan on networking before and after the forum.

She also is planning to videotape the proceeding and making it available at a later time.

Among the invited speakers are:

  • Win Phippen, professor of plant breeding and genetics, Western Illinois University
  • Liz Rupel, policy organizer, Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO, Natural Fiber Welding
  • Eric Pollitt, president, Global Hemp Inc.
  • Kevin Pilarski, chief commercial officer, Revolution Enterprises

Karen Binder can be reached at 618-534-0614 or kbinder@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Binder.

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