According to a lawmaker and a local printer, a law still on the books since the late 1990s meant to help local farmers has done nothing but drive up costs and drive down competition.

In 1998, lawmakers demanded that Illinois’ public agencies, schools and universities only use soy-based ink for their printing. Since then, laser printing has changed the process to make it cheaper and faster. But laser printing can’t use soy-based ink to print, as the old law demands.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, says his bill awaiting a Senate vote would remove this requirement because it only serves to drive prices up for taxpayer-funded jobs. State agencies then either go through a cumbersome waiver process or find a vendor willing to bend the truth about using soy-based ink.

“There’s no ink police,” he said. “If there’s somebody that’s willing to break the rule, then it’s gonna put upward pressure on the price because he then doesn’t have any competition.”

What’s worse is that the original intent of the law was to bolster Illinois’ soybean growers and it apparently did no such thing.

“It had no economic benefit for the farmers of Illinois,” Bloomington-based printer BOPI President Tom Mercier said. “Illinois soybeans are of the highest grade and would never be used in ink, which uses very low-grade soybeans. Illinois soybeans go into diesel fuel and wherever else soybean oil goes. It definitely doesn’t go into ink.”

Mercier isn’t aware of any ink suppliers that still sell 25 percent soy-based ink, which was the standard for black and white press printing years ago. Laser printing, which is more common now, cannot even use soy-based ink.

Mercier said he was told that most of the soy that went into ink was from Brazil, but suppliers aren’t likely to officially give the details of their products.

Originally posted on Illinois News Network