Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding opened the 2022 Pennsylvania Hemp Summit welcoming nearly 100 hemp growers and entrepreneurs to the conference and trade show. He highlighted nearly $1 million in state investments strengthening the commonwealth’s hemp industry.
“Industrial hemp is an economic driver delivering innovative approaches to everyday challenges,” said Redding. “From building materials to manufactured goods, to conservation and soil remediation, industrial hemp and its byproducts are sparking innovative and competitive solutions while growing opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers and manufacturers. The PA Hemp Summit provides a platform for growers, entrepreneurs, and industry experts to share ideas and address challenges while growing the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs.”
Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. The program sought to grow research opportunities to better understand the value and viability of industrial hemp as a Pennsylvania cash crop, authorizing 16 research projects in 15 counties to examine hemp varieties, plant growth, cover cropping, and its potential for animal bedding, feed, and manufactured goods.
The Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program paved the way for Act 46, which provided the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee the authority to approve industrial hemp production as a controlled plant. With this designation, Pennsylvania became the second state in the nation to submit its state plan for industrial hemp to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), officially opening the program to commercial growing operations permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Since 2019, the State Specialty Crop Block Grant has invested $627,615 in nine hemp projects across seven counties. Agricultural research dollars combined with the PA Farm Bill’s complete package of programs has invested more than $864,000 in Pennsylvania’s hemp industry over the last three years, including dollars to support the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit.
“Team Pennsylvania hosts the Hemp Summit because of the economic opportunity and need for collaboration across public and private sectors to capitalize on the potential for hemp,” said Abby Smith, President and CEO of Team Pennsylvania. “By convening industry stakeholders, we can catalyze partnerships, networks, and idea generation that is necessary to help build this industry in the commonwealth.”
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.