Pennsylvania Eyes Another Boost To Industrial Hemp Production

Industrial hemp in Pennsylvania
Image: TinaKru

Sixty industrial hemp research projects will be selected for Pennsylvania’s 2019 growing season – up from a maximum 50 that could be permitted this year.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced earlier this week opening of applications and availability of guidelines for what will be the third year of the state program’s operation.

2017 represented the first year in seven decades the crop was legally cultivated in Pennsylvania after Governor Tom Wolf signed an industrial hemp bill into law back in 2016. In the first round, 16 projects were approved.

In the 2018 growing season there was scope for 50 projects, but only 39 were approved. Governor Wolf was hoping to see 5,000 acres under cultivation in 2018, but it was likely to have been much lower – around 1,000 acres.

Regardless, the Agriculture Secretary is bullish on the crop’s prospects and the benefits it can bring to Pennsylvania.

“The first research projects conducted have shown exciting progress and possibilities for this reemerging crop,” said Secretary Redding. “This research will help us reintroduced industrial hemp in Pennsylvania.”

Industrial hemp was grown extensively in the state prior to prohibition and farmers were actively encouraged to cultivate the crop.

The revival program enables researchers from institutions of higher education and growers contracting with Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to conduct research, which is permissible under the USA’s 2014 Farm Bill.

As with last year, in the next round participants will be able to cultivate 100 acres per approved project, meaning there’s potential for 6,000 acres to be under hemp cultivation in 2019.

Hemp grown under the program must have a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) below a 0.3 percent threshold. Also, grain or fiber hemp projects will not be approved where the location is within three miles (approximately 4.8 kilometres) of an approved medical marijuana grower/processor facility or an existing crop being grown for cannabidiol (CBD) extraction. The reason for this is industrial hemp pollen has the potential to contaminate medical crops, heavily impacting on their cannabinoid yields.

Parameters for the 2019 research pilot program can be viewed here.

The deadline to apply for the 2019 PDA Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program is December 17, 2018 and successful applicants will receive notification of tentative approval by January 4 next year.