Farmers, state move ahead with industrial hemp production

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Agriculture officials say behind Kentucky, Pennsylvania is the pioneer for industrial hemp farming.

“The recently passed federal farm bill allows for states to sort of commercialize their industrial hemp,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said.

For the last two years, Pennsylvania has been researching hemp. Perry County Land and Cattle was involved in that project.

“Ideally, that’s what we’re trying to push for is to figure out a way to get the pressed hemp meal as an approved USDA livestock feed,” said Jeremiah Elsessor, the farm manager at Perry County Land and Cattle.

One of the requirements under the federal law is for states to submit a plan, which Pennsylvania did this week. That includes the permitting process and testing the product’s levels of THC, which is the psychoactive chemical found in hemp that’s also in marijuana.

“We have to randomly check the fields throughout the year to monitor the THC level,” Reading said. “Below point-three, it’s industrial hemp. Over point-three, it’s that Schedule I drug.”

The fiber in hemp can be used to manufacture a variety of products.

There’s a steering committee using local universities’ research to figure out how Pennsylvania could best use industrial hemp to create jobs.

“Pennsylvania has to create an infrastructure so that industrial hemp could be a profitable, new crop – not only for the processors and potential manufacturers but farmers,” said Martha Roberts, who owns Perry County Land and Cattle and is on the steering committee. 

Click here to learn about getting involved in industrial hemp farming.

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