Is a state university petitioning to grow industrial hemp? As it turns out, yes! And the university in question is looking for a new location. Penn State University has submitted an application to the State Department of Agriculture requesting that it’s fledgling hemp research program be allowed to move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The project was started on farmland near the Penn State campus at University Park, Pennsylvania in 2017.
Penn State and Industrial Hemp
According to a local news source, Professor of Agronomy Greg Roth believes the request will be approved. The university will be allowed to grow up to 100 acres of industrial hemp at its research facility in Landisville in Lancaster County. The area will be an ideal location for farmers to learn alongside university researchers.
“Lancaster County is one of our largest agricultural counties, and there are a lot of innovators in agriculture there. We’d like to invite them during the summer to see our trial and discuss its potential in the state,” said Professor Roth.
Hemp was once an important crop in Lancaster County. But the reefer madness of the early 20th century led to the cultivation of all cannabis, even non-psychoactive industrial varieties, being effectively outlawed with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Because of that 80-year gap in growing the crop, the specialized knowledge and skills acquired over generations of hemp agriculture have largely been lost to the farmers of today.
Research programs like the one in Pennsylvania seek to regain that lost knowledge while exploring the potential economic benefits of the crop. In 2017, the first year of Pennsylvania’s pilot program, less than 50 acres of hemp were grown at 16 sites approved by the state Department of Agriculture. The plan has been expanded for 2018, with 50 farmers, colleges, and universities approved to grow up to 100 acres of hemp each.
Final Hit: State University Petitioning To Grow Industrial Hemp
Hemp had found a welcome home in the area for more than 300 years. William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 with the intention that hemp would be an important commodity for the new colony. By the 1720s the General Assembly was subsidizing farmers’ hemp production.
Early settlers of Lancaster County began farming in 1710, with hemp being one of the first crops planted. When Lancaster County was created in 1729, one of its first communities was Hempfield Township, named for the “vast quantities of hemp grown there.”
Originally, hemp was grown in Lancaster County primarily as a source of fiber for rope and fabric. Today, hemp can be used in literally thousands of products including food, oil, plastics, medicine, biofuels, building materials and auto parts. Given the myriad commercial applications of industrial hemp, it’s potential as a lucrative cash crop for farmers in Pennsylvania and across the United States can’t be denied.
As hemp once again becomes a viable option, Professor Roth sees a bright future for local farmers. “To be on the forefront of industrial hemp research in Pennsylvania is incredibly exciting. Hemp is an interesting crop that provides opportunities for product development and economic benefit. After a decades-long ban on its cultivation, we’re eager to see it make a comeback,” he said last year about the state’s pilot program.