Illinois farmer starts farming next big cash crop – hemp.

Published: Mar. 5, 2019 at 5:41 PM CST
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The next big cash crop in Illinois might be hemp after state lawmakers made it legal to farm this year, and because of the 2018 Farm Bill, some Iowans are also awaiting the go-ahead.

Andy Huston of Roseville, Illinois is a sixth generation farmer and his family always focused on corn and soybeans, but he's the first to start farming the new crop hemp.

“It's pretty interesting because it's kind of like a new frontier, it's a brand new industry,” said Huston.

Huston got a call from Western Illinois University about a year ago, asking for his help doing hemp research.

“What we're planning on doing in this growing season is trying several different techniques on growing,” said Huston. “We're going to have plants under irrigation, plants not under irrigation, we're going to do different types of research as far as spacing and planting times.”

He says the interest in the crop is huge, and he knows plenty of other farmers who will be taking advantage of the new laws, too.

“There's several farmers in this area that are planning on putting acres of hemp in this year,” Huston added. “They're going to try different techniques from what I'm going to try. Our main focus is that everybody communicate with each other.”

It should help the rural economy and the farmers make their loan money.

“It's probably going to take away from corn and soybean production, so if our acreage goes down there might be more demand for corn and soybeans in the future,” said Huston. “So I see this being an economic boom for rural America.”

Huston says to anyone worried about the lack of farmers farming corn or soybeans, they shouldn't, because those will always be the number one crop in the Midwest.

“It's going to give farmers another alternative that they can grow other than corn, soybeans, and wheat,” he said. “Corn and soybean production is not going to go away. If anything, hemp is going to make corn and soybeans stronger. What would be nice is to get an acreage battle between hemp, corn, and soybeans - that's going to be beneficial to the farming industry.”

As of right now, hemp will be used for its CBD oil for different medications - but after a few years when more people are involved, it will be used for paper, cloth, feed, and textiles.

Huston also says he was recently contacted by Iowa State University as part of research on the potential health benefits of hemp as far as farm animal feed.