Pennsylvania’s Industrial Hemp Plan Allows for Commercial Growing Operations
Harrisburg, PA - Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has submitted its state plan for industrial hemp to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and will re-open the 2019 program to include applications for commercial growing operations. Pennsylvania is only the second state to submit a state plan to USDA.
“Pennsylvania’s story is shaped by agriculture and the products that help grow the commonwealth, and industrial hemp presents an exciting new chapter in that story,” said Sec. Redding. “The passage and signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, particularly the language removing industrial hemp from regulation under the Controlled Substances Act, and providing for commercial production of industrial hemp, are welcome changes that will benefit both Pennsylvania producers and consumers.”
Today, the department also approved 84 permit applications. Over the past two years, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has administered the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, legitimized by the 2014 Farm Bill and authorized in Pennsylvania statute by the Industrial Hemp Research Act. Acreage caps—previously set at 100 acres—have been lifted for the 84 approved applicants and acreage will no longer be restricted under the new program. Additionally, there will not be a cap on the number of applications accepted for 2019.The 84 approved applications will be finalized first; additional applications will be reviewed and processed on a first come, first serve basis. The department has updated the fee structure for the 2019 Industrial Hemp Program, creating savings for the already-approved applicants.
Industrial hemp was grown in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States 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 mainly for fiber and seed and must maintain a much lower concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, below the 0.3 percent legal threshold.
Pennsylvania’s plan will make industrial hemp subject to the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee, created under Act 46 of 2017. With the committee’s approval, industrial hemp will become a controlled plant, which will require all growers to register and obtain permits through the department. The permit will include all information required by federal law for industrial hemp production and will allow enforcement necessary for any violation of permit conditions.
“The plan that we have submitted to USDA certifies our commitment to creating the conditions for Pennsylvanians to grow a profitable, sustainable, and in-demand product,” added Redding. “Over the past two years, through the research pilot program, we have demonstrated that we have the capability to build a hemp production regulatory program with the integrity and oversight that is needed.”
For more information and to view application materials, visit the department's website.