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Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp is a versatile agricultural plant which could one day be a valuable crop option for Pennsylvania farmers. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has taken some important steps toward making that a reality. Following Governor Wolf’s signing of the Industrial Hemp Research Act, Number 92 in 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture launched the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program for the 2017 growing season. Pennsylvania’s industrial hemp legislation was sparked by the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which gave federal permission for institutions of higher education or state Departments of Agriculture to research the cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp. As part of Pennsylvania’s Research Pilot Program, industrial hemp would once again be legally grown in the Commonwealth for the first time in 80 years. Through this program, the Department of Agriculture issued research permits to institutions of higher education and to persons interested in contracting with the Department to participate in the research of industrial hemp cultivation and marketing in Pennsylvania. In 2017, fourteen research permits were issued to twelve researchers, who cultivated industrial hemp in thirteen different Pennsylvania counties. 

Some of the research focuses that were explored in 2017 were: a study of the effect of different planting dates, seed planting densities, tillage regimens, and nitrogen levels on hemp; a survey of insect presence/pressure in hemp; hemp variety comparison for suitability to PA growing conditions; study of hemp seed oil processing and marketability; comparison of hemp’s capability for weed suppression to other crops; evaluation of hemp’s performance for phytoremediation and erosion control in mine reclamation; determination of hemp’s antibacterial activity; and evaluations of hemp as an animal feed ingredient (for both cattle and fish).

The Department has policies and procedures in place for the commonwealth's hemp research program, which can be found in the 2018 Pilot Program Parameters. Researchers from institutions of higher education or growers who would like to be considered for participation in the 2018 program must submit a 2018 PDA Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program Permit Application prior to the application deadline of January 19, 2018. Researchers who participated in the 2017 Pilot Program may submit a Permit Renewal form by January 19, 2018 to continue their projects in the 2018 growing season.