HARRISBURG, Pa. — The PA Department of Agriculture is now taking applications for permits to grow or process hemp in the 2022 season. Grower applications for commercial use or research are due by April 1, 2022. The department accepts processor permit applications year-round.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding also encouraged 2021 growers to report their production, harvest, yield and sales figures by responding to the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service’s 2021 Hemp Acreage and Production Survey.
“With hemp growers in nearly every county, and more than 60 processors statewide, Pennsylvania’s hemp supply chain is growing steadily,” said Secretary Redding. “With cutting-edge research into exciting new products that promise to bring dollars to our economy and sustainable, green solutions in textiles, architecture and design, we are pleased to invest in making Pennsylvania an industry leader. The data growers provide informs solid decision-making by those positioned to invest and grow opportunities.”
For 2021, the PA Department of Agriculture issued 426 hemp growing permits including nine research permits, and 64 processing permits including two research permits. Data on acreage planted and harvested this season are not yet available.
Permit application instructions can be found online at agriculture.pa.gov/hemp. The website also includes a map and listing of hemp permits issued to growers for the 2021, 2020 and 2019 seasons, as well as registered processors.
Hemp was grown in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States until after World War II but shortly after, cultivation of hemp and marijuana, were prohibited under federal law. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species. Unlike marijuana, hemp is grown for fiber and seed, in addition to floral extracts. Under current federal law, anything containing above 0.3% of the psychoactive chemical THC is considered marijuana.
In 2017 and 2018, Pennsylvania’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program was enabled by the 2014 federal Farm Bill and the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Research Act. In 2019, Pennsylvania lifted the 100-acre cap for research plots and became one of the first states to create a commercial program under the 2018 federal Farm Bill. Pennsylvania’s 2019 program permitted 324 growers, with more than 4,000 acres of hemp in 55 Pennsylvania counties.
Pennsylvania added processor permits in 2020 to help connect growers with markets for their products. The department facilitated faster THC testing by partnering with the Department of Health’s medical marijuana testing labs to increase the state’s testing capacity during a tight harvest window.
Under the historic 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the state made $460,000 in funding available each of the past three years to support the growing industry through the creation of a state Specialty Crop Block Grant. The department encouraged the USDA to make federal specialty crop funds available to hemp farmers, and convened a Hemp Steering Committee to bring together researchers, funding entities, regulators, growers, processors and others whose expertise is key to building a successful PA hemp industry from the ground up.
–Shannon Powers, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture