Pennsylvania Launches Research Program for Industrial Hemp

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has opened the application process for pilot hemp research projects, and released this statement:

Pennsylvania is one step closer to reintroducing industrial hemp to the Keystone State as the Department of Agriculture today released the application and guidelines to conduct pilot research projects that will help to determine opportunities for its growth, cultivation and marketing.

“Industrial hemp has a rich history in Pennsylvania, and we believe there is a great deal of opportunity for growers, processors and other businesses that make a range of products from automobiles, paper and textiles to a range of food and beverage products,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding. “The first step though, which we are announcing today, is to conduct research projects to better our understanding of which seed varieties are most viable for our climate, what are the best soil types, and what uses offer the greatest potential for economic development. Industrial hemp certainly is not a new crop, but we believe it has the potential to become a very attractive part of Pennsylvania’s future.”

Under the guidelines the department released today, a maximum of 30 projects will be selected for the 2017 growing season. The department will select the successful projects based on a complete program application and a determination of the merit of the proposed research.

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 or seed for industrial purposes.

Industrial hemp was grown commercially in the United States, and in Pennsylvania, until after World War II, but became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited. 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.

“The 2014 Farm Bill represented the first step to bring industrial hemp back to Pennsylvania, and thanks to the combined efforts of Governor Wolf and the General Assembly, the passage of Act 92 of 2016 enabled us to develop the parameters for the research pilot program,” Redding added. “Beginning today, researchers can enter the application process to be considered for a permit to grow or cultivate industrial hemp. Our goal is to have research projects underway and crops in the test plots for the 2017 growing season.”

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.

At this time, there is no regulatory framework that allows movement of viable hemp seed across state lines, so even as applicants are applying for the research projects, the department has taken the initial steps to begin the federal process for importing hemp seeds from other countries. The Department of Agriculture has applied for a general import registration, which is also available to institutions of higher education.

Successful candidates in the competition for research projects will work with the department’s registered importer to purchase seed for their projects. All seeds will be shipped directly to the department and will be held for delivery to approved projects in time for spring planting.

Here at Justben Ag, we are thrilled with this progress for the emerging Pennsylvania hemp industry, and will continue to provide updates on the new PA hemp legislation.

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