A bill moving through the Illinois state legislature would create a commission to study and improve equity in agriculture, including in hemp and cannabis production.

H.B. 5201 would establish a task force to advise the state on policies and programs that would bolster socially disadvantaged producers and create more equity within the industry.

“We know agriculture is the largest job-producing industry in the state of Illinois,” says State Rep. Sonya Harper, who introduced the bill. 

However, the loss of Black and other minority farmers in the industry has led to issues with food security, health, and the economy, especially in disadvantaged communities, according to the bill text.

If created, the committee would include around 30 members who come from diverse backgrounds both demographically and professionally, including a representative from a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing healthy food access, an attorney or legal expert in property law, and six socially disadvantaged farmers or agribusiness owners.

The bill specifically highlights hemp and cannabis as an area of focus for the commission. Harper says H.B. 5201 is one of several bills she has introduced and helped pass as it relates to agricultural equity and increasing opportunities for farmers of color. 

One of her latest initiatives was to create a state cannabis equity commission in 2021. That committee aims to “ensur[e] that equity goals in the Illinois cannabis industry … are met,” among other initiatives.

Harper says the bill that helped create the cannabis equity commission also facilitated a disparity study for agriculture.  

She adds that the establishment of a social equity committee “falls right in line” with that recently conducted disparity study.

The bill currently has seven sponsors. Its third reading on the House floor is expected this week