Industrial Hemp’s Pennsylvania Comeback

Industrial Hemp research in Pennsylvania
Image: Plismo, CC BY 3.0, Link

Once an important crop for the state, industrial hemp is set to make a return to Pennsylvania; with 16 research proposals getting the green light from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

While the wheels have been turning slowly – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an industrial hemp bill into law last July – at least they have continued to turn.

Industrial hemp has a long history in the state, with the founder of what was originally Province of Pennsylvania, William Penn, an advocate. One of the first laws passed by the General Assembly in Pennsylvania strongly encouraged every farmer to cultivate industrial hemp.

Growing the crop in the state (and elsewhere in the USA) was outlawed in the mid-20th century in what was an extreme example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“As a result, we have missed out on many economic opportunities,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

“Thanks to the federal Farm Bill, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly, though, we now have the chance to re-establish this promising plant in Pennsylvania, which we believe could offer farmers tremendous new opportunities down the road.”

As we mentioned last year, the laws enabling industrial hemp cultivation in Pennsylvania are quite restrictive due to the nature of the Farm Bill, but it seems there’s been no lack of interested parties keen to jump on board.

The 16 research applications approved will result in projects established in 15 different counties if they all come to fruition. A wide range of research will be carried out, including

  • comparing seed and stalk yields under varying growing conditions
  • evaluating hemp’s attributes in relation to erosion control
  • evaluating potential benefits of industrial hemp as a cash or cover crop
  • measuring invasive potential
  • comparing different cultivars
  • studying disease and insect impact
  • researching potential for contaminated soil remediation

“We are grateful to these researchers for their commitment to build an industrial hemp industry in Pennsylvania, and we thank them for choosing to work with us as we take the first steps in that direction,” stated Mr. Redding.

Pennsylvania was also the 24th US state to legalize medical cannabis, which occurred in April last year.