Illinois Declares Hemp Optimism Amid Shadows of Pandemic

By William Sumner, Hemp Content Manager, New Frontier Data

In releasing the state’s 2019 Hemp Harvest Report, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) deemed the season to be successful. The IDOA cited “encouraging numbers” for 2019 despite disastrous flooding in the state, along with optimism for the 2020 growing season regardless of the CONAVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared all 102 counties of Illinois as agricultural disaster areas following historic flooding throughout the state. Nevertheless, a reported 5.2 million acres (73%) were harvested among a reported 7.1 million acres of hemp planted in 2019. “We are encouraged by these yield numbers and optimistic for the 2020 growing season,” Jerry Costello, IDOA Acting Director, reported in a statement. He noted that the IDOA has developed a policy allowing licensed hemp growers to sell product to licensed cannabis cultivators for use in medical and adult-use cannabis products.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed food and agriculture among 16 essential industries deemed as critical to continuing operations, thus leaving no restrictions on hemp farmers looking to plant.

Most of the state’s cultivated acreage was dedicated to CBD production. Approximately 1.48 million pounds of biomass was harvested, along with roughly 595,128 pounds of hemp flower. Conversely, 15,107 pounds of stalk were harvested, compared to 65,489 pounds of seed.

The harvest report included a fifth but unspecified category, listed as “undefined variables in reporting” amounting to 69,290 pounds.

With many states still compiling their 2019 numbers, a national comparison remains undetermined.

Source: Kentucky Department of Agriculture

In singular comparison, however, Kentucky’s farmers in 2019 planted about 26,500 acres of hemp, of which approximately 24,900 acres (94%) were harvested. As in Illinois, most of the Bluegrass State’s hemp was dedicated to CBD, accounting for 92% of acres harvested. Fiber amounted to 4%, followed by grain and seed (2%), and fiber and seed (2%), respectively.

Though Illinois’ hemp numbers paled to Kentucky’s, they came in Illinois’ first full year of production. For greater context, Kentucky conversely harvested 6,000 acres of hemp in 2018.

At present, the biggest risks to hemp production revolve around the pandemic.

For farmers holding onto optimism about buying hempseed and young plants this spring, they have been seeking to confirm their orders and get crops their fields. Yet, with planting typically slated for the end of May and the beginning of June, the unprecedented and broad uncertainties regarding local and state shelter-in-place orders loom ominously for a sector which already saw oversupply drive down prices throughout the supply chain last year.