TYRONE, Pa. — During a visit to a hemp growing site in Blair County today, Governor Tom Wolf and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding highlighted the opportunities available to hemp growers and processors across the commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on a new and in-demand market for hemp,” said Gov. Wolf. “This is a versatile product with many uses, and it’s a product that consumers want.”
This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued more than 300 permits on nearly 600 acres at more than 800 different growing locations.
“Hemp is a new, old crop that has the potential to make a big impact on Pennsylvania’s agricultural – and economic – landscape,” said Sec. Redding. “It’s a crop with both a rich history and a bright future here in the commonwealth.”
This summer, Gov. Wolf signed the PA Farm Bill, a piece of which will create a state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in and encourage farming of high-priority crops like hemp. Eligible projects must enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by improving distribution, efficiency, or research to boost consumption of goods.
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. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant. Unlike marijuana, 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 recently made hemp subject to the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee, created under Act 46 of 2017. With the committee’s approval, hemp was designated a controlled plant, which requires all growers to register and obtain permits through the department.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s commercial hemp program, visit the department’s website.
Later today, Gov. Wolf will make his second stop this year on the Pennsylvania Ice Cream Trail with a visit to Ritchey’s Dairy, Martinsburg. The dairy farm, which has been operated by four generations of the Ritchey family, has expanded over time from local milk deliveries to ice cream, iced tea and butter. Ritchey’s Dairy has plans to further expand its storage, processing and packaging capabilities using a $767,550 loan approved earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.
“Ritchey’s Dairy is a great example of a family willing to try new business initiatives to carry on a legacy of family farming,” said Gov. Wolf. “I’m proud to be supporting farming families like the Ritcheys through programs like the Ice Cream Trail and our agriculture investment loans.”
The Pennsylvania “Pursue Your Scoops” Ice Cream Trail was developed last year as a joint effort between the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and the Department of Agriculture to boost Pennsylvania’s dairy industry by capitalizing on agritourism. Visitors can pick up a passport at any of the trail’s 31 stops and have it stamped at a mix of participating on-farm creameries and ice cream shops that support Pennsylvania milk processors and local dairy farmers. Visitors with at least five stamps by Sept. 2, 2019, receive a “Pursue Your Scoops” t-shirt, while a fully stamped passport earns a “Pursue Your Scoops” ice cream bowl.
“We are pleased to be a part of the Western PA Ice Cream trail this year,” said Andrew Ritchey, owner. “This program has benefitted our business as well as the other businesses on the trail. We’ve had customers come from all around to visit our ice cream shop this year.”
–Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture