Number of research permit applications more than doubles in program’s second year
Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania is poised to grow potentially 30 times the number of industrial hemp acres it did in 2017, which according to state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, is a clear indication of the enthusiasm around this nascent, but promising industry.
Redding today announced the Department of Agriculture approved 39 industrial hemp research applications. If all applicants complete the permitting process, nearly 1,000 acres of hemp will be growing this spring. For comparison, last year, 14 growers produced a total of 36 acres statewide. About one third of those who applied to grow hemp this year are renewal requests from last year’s growers.
“Last year was the first year in seven decades industrial hemp was grown and harvested in Pennsylvania, and it was clear there was considerable interest,” said Redding, “so when Governor Wolf announced that Pennsylvania would expand its research program, we were eager to see how many researchers would apply and how many acres they intended to plant. We’re pleased with the response and the enthusiasm around this promising and versatile crop. And we’re especially pleased that so many of our first-year growers have committed to continue their research.”
The 39 approved projects will be conducted across 25 different counties, including Adams, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Clearfield, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Perry, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland,and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania launched its Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program in December 2016 after Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 92 in June 2016. The 2014 federal Farm Bill paved the way for Pennsylvania’s program, allowing researchers from institutions of higher education and individual growers contracting with the state Department of Agriculture to apply for permits to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The department has supported additional federal efforts to unlock the full economic potential of this crop and the industries around it.
Governor Wolf announced in December that the commonwealth would expand the program in 2018 to permit up to 50 growers to plant up to 100 acres apiece. Following the January 19 application deadline, the department’s Bureau of Plant Industry reviewed applications, requested additional information to complete the permitting process, and verified FBI clearance records. Permits will be issued to successful applicants who submit the $2,000 permit fee, after which the bureau will submit seed orders to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA must permit the importation of hemp seed into the U.S.
Industrial hemp was grown commercially in the United States and in Pennsylvania through the World War II era, but became regulated along with marijuana in the 1950s and 1960s, prohibiting its cultivation. Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant. Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed, and must maintain a concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, below the 0.3 percent legal threshold.
A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service found that hemp is used in more than 25,000 products worldwide, including automotive interiors, textiles, paper, foods, beverages and nutritional supplements among others. China and Canada dominate hemp production today, with the United States being the world’s largest importer of the cash crop. It is estimated to be a nearly $600 million industry in the U.S.
"Hemp has a very long history in Pennsylvania and although it had been missing from the landscape for a generation, it has found new life in the commonwealth,” said Redding. “There is a considerable amount of interest in hemp and tremendous economic development potential—something we will try to enable through the next federal Farm Bill. Allowing research was a good first step, but the potential of this crop warrants the federal government allowing more extensive production. Legitimizing industrial hemp will give entrepreneurs the assurance they need to invest in this industry.”
To learn more about the state’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, visit agriculture.pa.gov, Facebook or Twitter.
MEDIA CONTACT: Bonnie J. McCann - 717.783.0133
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