McClure, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited JustBen Agriculture’s Mifflin County farm on Monday to view progress at one of 16 research projects that seek to demonstrate the economic value and viability of industrial hemp as a marketable crop in Pennsylvania.
“Thanks to the federal Farm Bill and Governor Wolf’s bipartisan work with the General Assembly, we now have the chance to re-establish this promising crop in Pennsylvania. Projects like this promise to demonstrate the viability and the potential of the plant to boost the vitality of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.”
JustBen is comparing four varieties of hemp for potential use in food and fiber. The five-acre project was approved under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, which the department launched in December after Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 92 of 2016.
“Before hemp production was banned in the U.S., hemp was grown and marketed for a tremendous variety of uses,” Secretary Redding said. “In the decades since, Pennsylvania has missed out on valuable economic opportunities. We’re hopeful that these research projects can spur the return of a promising crop and decreased dependence on imports.
JustBen Agriculture melds the skills of Justin Frederico, PhD, an organic chemist with extensive industrial experience, and lifelong friend farmer Ben Hall, Jr. The project intends to build on existing knowledge of how to optimize industrial hemp production in Pennsylvania and gain a better understanding of what varieties will grow well here and what cultivation practices will work best. Marketing research is also a key element of the project.
“We’re excited by the prospect of growing hemp in Mifflin County” said JustBen founder Dr. Frederico. “And we’re especially thrilled to be contributing our skills for the betterment of Pennsylvania families. In the short term, our focus will be researching hemp as food and fiber. Ultimately, we envision a fully operationalized farm planting, growing, cultivating and harvesting industrial hemp for food and fiber for Pennsylvania—and continuing to research hemp’s uses.”
Secretary Redding is in the process of visiting each of the 16 projects in the program during the growing season. Visitors to Penn State University’s Ag Progress Days August 15-17 at the Russel E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Pennsylvania Furnace, Centre County can tour the university’s project from 2 to 3:00 PM each day, or attend one of four presentations hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on the past, present and potential of hemp at the department’s building. Look for further details of the department’s activities during Ag Progress Days online.
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