For the first time in 80 years, industrial hemp will soon be legal for farmers to grow in the United States as part of the farm bill passed by Congress last week. And that could mean big things for farmers here in Pennsylvania.
Matt Heckel reported from Harrisburg.
It’s been a tough year for farmers in Pennsylvania, due to things like trade tariffs and poor weather conditions. But now, there is a hope that hemp could help farmers find financial stability in the future.
“Hemp was once a tremendously important crop in Pennsylvania,” said Shannon Powers, with the Department of Agriculture. “That’s why we have places like Hempfield and Hemp Township.”
But for 80 years, It has been illegal to grow. But the 2018 farm bill, passed by Congress last week changes that, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and classifying it for commercial use.
“We have some really enthusiastic growers, who believe in hemp and believe in its possibilities,” said Powers. “And they’ve seen what they can do with it.”
For two years, some farmers in Pennsylvania have been able to grow hemp as part of research programs. Powers says it gives the state a head start moving forward.
Shannon Powers: “They’re researching things like proper growing conditions, how it could be harvested. All that 80 years of information we’re missing, since hemp’s been gone from our landscape for 80 years.”
Hemp will still be regulated by the department of agriculture, but the hope for many farmers is hemp can be a financial opportunity they haven’t been able to take advantage of for nearly a century.
“It’s a crop that can be used for fiber, for auto parts. It’s for concrete,” said Powers. “It can make all kinds of things. And it just has immense possibilities.”
The farm bill has not yet been signed into law by President Trump. As for Pennsylvania’s research program, that will continue in 2019 though, officials aren’t sure how the new law will affect it moving forward.