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A Different Kind of Crop

Posted on July 31, 2000

A local farmer is pushing for a different kind of crop

By Amy Collen, WGEM News

Quincy, Illinois — He wants to legalize hemp, giving farmers an alternative to the traditional corn and soy beans.

From clothing and rope, to construction material and even matting for a car interior hemp, can be used in a wide variety of products but it’s an untapped crop in Illinois. That’s something Ned Behrensmeyer hopes to change.

“We need to start looking at other alternative crops so that’s why I’m interested in promoting Industrial Hemp,” said Behrensmeyer, of rural Payson.

Federally outlawed more than sixty years ago, hemp has been legalized in three other states with the help of the Farm Bureau. Behrensmeyer is hoping to get the support of farmers now with a booth at the Adams County Fair.

“The truth is that marijuana and hemp are from different varieties of the same plant,” he said. “Hemp has less than one-sixth the potency of marijuana.”

Behrensmeyer says smoking it would be like smoking your lawn.

“If this is marijuana then the poppy seeds on this bagel are opium,” said Behrensmeyer, waving a baked good.

One of the misconceptions facing this movement is that hemp is just this coarse, rope-like material, but supporters say it’s important for the public to recognize that it can be processed into soft fiber.

“It’s extremely strong, durable, rot resistant,” Behrensmeyer said. “Plus it has some environmental benefits it grows so quickly and densely that herbicides aren’t needed.

“The other great environmental aspect is its ability to substitute for a whole range of wood-based products, from paper and construction materials,” he added.

This fall, a bill is expected to come before the Illinois House of Representatives asking to research industrial hemp. Supporters are hoping with enough public interest, legislators will be ready to take the next step.

Copyright © 2000, WGEM News. All rights reserved.