Industrial hemp production continues to expand, according to licensed production data reported Tuesday by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).

During a second virtual state hemp summit Tuesday, David Lakeman, manager of the IDOA medicinal plants division, told nearly 500 participants the state licensed 802 hemp growers last year. Of the licensed growers, 45% submitted year-end reports to IDOA.

Reporting growers planted 2,600 field acres and 122 greenhouse acres of hemp. They harvested 2,286 field acres and 106 greenhouse acres for a combined 2,392 acres. From those 2,392 acres, growers harvested 1.278 million pounds of flowers, 48,000 pounds of fiber, 39,000 pounds of seed and 8,500 pounds of grain.

“Given all the obstacles, these are numbers to be proud of,” Lakeman said.

Contributions potentially may be expanded through the state Homegrown by Heroes program that allows Illinois farmers, ranchers and fishermen who served or are still serving in any military branch to use a special logo on their ag products sold to the public. The program is free for eligible veterans.

Illinois reporting growth in hemp acres, harvested crops

“With the hemp industry poised for exponential growth, I would love to see our nation’s veterans contribute their vast talents to move the industry forward,” said Illinois Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II, a veteran himself. “This new industry ... is perfect for veterans to thrive in. It is my intent to highlight every veteran growing products in the state of Illinois, but it is a unique time to be involved in hemp.”

Lakeman echoed Costello’s support for veteran involvement in the state’s hemp industry, especially through Homegrown by Heroes.

Along with industry growth, the agency also continues to expand those who administer hemp and certain aspects of medicinal- and adult-use marijuana. Lakeman pointed out IDOA’s medicinal plant sector grew from a bureau to a division “and is adding people to meet growing demands.” Soon, the division will add a hemp program manager to serve as a dedicated contact person for hemp issues.

Lakeman told participants the division’s philosophy is transparency, open communication, predictability and consistency. “My promise is that we will do our best, so you know what’s happening and why and you know the regulatory structure and provisions you face today are the same ones you face tomorrow,” he concluded.