Collinsville, Illinois — Governor Ryan: Thank you for being here today and giving us this oppurtunity to share our concerns with you. My name is Ned Behrensmeyer and I own a 475 acre farm in Adams Co. Thomas Jefferson said, “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” What we are trying to do is restore to its rightful place in our agriculture one of the most useful crop plants in history. Hemp was a crop of primary importance in times past and it beleagers common sense to think that the strongest natural fiber that can be grown in a monoculture couldn’t also find a profitable place in the modern world. If consumers were given a choice between buying a good quality, construction grade, rot resistant pressed hemp fiberboard produced by American farmers from an environmentally friendly annual crop vs. cheap chipboard made from ground-up Rocky Mountain Aspen forests which would they choose? And why shouldn’t they be given this choice? This is the issue for us. We believe the potential for hemp is great enough to demand serious attention and consideration from our elected officials and study by our universities.
For American farmers its diversify or die. In the natural world species go extinct when they can’t adapt and change to new conditions or when their strategy for survival rests on too narrow a base. Midwestern agriculture is in a vulnerable position today, in part, because the range of viable crops is now so limited. For most farmers corn and soybeans are all that’s left and we all suffer from the overproduction of these. Over the last thirty years very little research and development has gone into finding the next super-crops which could revitalize agriculture or send it in new directions. The emphasis has all been on finding ways to genetically modify the short list of existing crops. But now we witness that the fruits of this alliance between big agribusiness and government is the creation of a technology and foodstuffs that the people, in droves, want no part of.
Interestingly enough, the hemp issue is not coming from either agribusiness or government. It is coming directly from the people themselves. There is enough anxiety these days in the general public about changes going on in the climate as well as other evidence that human activities are finally overwhelming the environment’s ability to absorb our impact that the search is on to find ways to change course. Hemp, with its ability to substitute for a host of wood and forest based products could be a very powerful tool for slowing or reversing worldwide deforestation and thoughtful people the world over are waking up to this fact. Increasingly, “environmentally friendly” sells. Given the positive environmental attributes of hemp production, it is not too much to hope that the people at large would enthusiastically embrace its products if given the chance and they were cost competitive.
This last Sunday on it’s front page, the Quincy Herald Whig published a large article about hemp and my own involvement with it (Local farmer promotes hemp as alternative crop) and I would like to submit this article to you. However, this last week, word came that Gen. Barry McCaffrey is moving to propose legislation at the federal level which will ban the importation of all legal hemp products by removing the exemption that currently permits their import. This is a direct attack on the nascent hemp industry and an affront to American ideals of fair play, not to mention common sense. I would also like to submit this article for your consideration. (It comes from Rep. Cynthia Thielen, the Republican Hawaiian State Representative wha has been instrumental in getting the bill passed in that state and their research program underway.) Will you support SB 1397 if it gets to your desk?
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No pies today just a big banner reading “RecallRyan.com”. About 400 people were there. I got up and read the following statement (pretty nervous, too) and when I finished the Governor turned to Evelyn Bowles for additional comment. She thanked me and when she finished there was a round of applause. Then Gary Knecht followed with more on hemp describing their recent trip to Canada. It was good. We made our noise and were heard. Joe Hampton, the Agriculture Department Director, was very supportive in his comments to Gary and myself after the forum was over.