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12/23/2016

PA Agriculture Department Announces Cost-Sharing Program to Spur, Promote Industrial Hemp Research

Harrisburg, PA - Following the launch of Pennsylvania’s new Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program earlier this month, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced a cost-sharing program for the 2017 growing season that supports projects contributing toward a better understanding of what could be a promising new crop for farmers.

“Hemp has a long history here in Pennsylvania, and we believe it holds a promising future,” said Redding. “If we want to realize this crop’s full potential, though, we need the benefit of sound research. We have the opportunity in this first year of the research program to support projects that will help give us a better understanding of the opportunities to grow, harvest and market hemp in Pennsylvania.”

Under the cost-share program, the department will award $1,000 to successful hemp research program permit recipients to off-set the administrative costs tied to their project. Applications for this cost-share program will be available in the Spring through the department’s Bureau of Market Development.

Researchers who successfully complete a permitted hemp research project are eligible to apply, as long as the project has been approved by the Department of Agriculture and the researcher has submitted a final report.

Funding for the cost share comes from remaining dollars in the department’s Agricultural Research appropriation. The availability of funds to support the cost-share arrangement in future years is subject to appropriated funding.

Under the Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program guidelines released on December 1, a maximum of 30 projects of five acres each will be selected for the 2017 growing season. The department will select the successful projects based on a complete program application and the quality of the research proposal.

The department will issue a research permit to an institution of higher education or to a person contracted to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The department will only approve products or uses that would use hemp fiber, seed or oil derived from seed for industrial purposes.

The deadline to apply for a 2017 PDA Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program is January 6, 2017. Applications will be reviewed, and those applicants who are tentatively approved for research projects will be notified by February 17, 2017.

The pilot research program follows the state and federal laws that allow industrial hemp to be grown in states where allowed. The 2014 Farm Bill opened the door to very limited legal growth of industrial hemp as part of agricultural research pilot programs, and earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 92 to research the potential for economic growth that this crop could bring to the commonwealth.

Industrial hemp, which is derived from Cannabis sativa L. plant, was grown commercially in the United States, including in Pennsylvania, until after World War II, but because of its association with marijuana, governments began to outlaw its cultivation in the mid-20th century. Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, but industrial hemp differs because of its low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, thus it does not produce the same psychoactive effects as marijuana.

Fiber, seed and seed-based oils produced under the state’s pilot research program must be used exclusively for industrial purposes and must maintain a THC concentration below the 0.3 percent legal threshold.

“Since launching the pilot research program earlier this month, the department has received a great deal of feedback, and we’re grateful for the support of stakeholders and advocates who worked tirelessly to pass the law allowing for this program,” said Redding. “Many people have told us they are eager to participate, while others have expressed disappointment that the current program does not allow for larger, commercial operations or for the processing of certain kinds of oils.

“We feel this approach is a prudent and appropriate starting point for the program’s first-year given what is allowed under state and federal laws, and, as we have said repeatedly, we are committed to revising the program based on feedback. The cost-share program we are announcing today is designed to address concerns expressed by a small number of interested growers who felt the regulatory costs tied to the program were prohibitive.”

For more information on the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Project, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov and click on “Industrial Hemp” under the “Hot Topics” section.

MEDIA CONTACT: Bonnie McCann - 717-783-0133

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