Month: June 2017

Working Relationship Between USDA and the Hemp Industry Reaffirmed

PAHIC President and NHA Board Chairman Geoff Whaling met with senior USDA staff on June 28th, with the encouragement of Agricultural Secretary Perdue. Mr. Whaling initiated the meeting along with Erica McBride of the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Council. This was the first meeting Secretary Perdue and his team have afforded the Industrial Hemp Industry.

Meeting attendees, along with Whaling and McBride, were Jonathan Miller representing the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, as well as representatives from Senator Merkley and Representative Comer’s offices. Representing Secretary Perdue were Chief of Staff, Heidi Green, Acting General Counsel, Steve Vaden, and Michele Esch, Acting Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary for Research along with senior USDA Policy staff. The meeting reaffirmed critical elements of the working relationship the hemp industry has established with the USDA since the enactment of Sec. 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Under the new administration, the USDA will continue to treat all parts of the hemp plant as being covered under the current Farm Bill and will not attempt to delineate parts of the hemp plant as practiced by the DEA. The USDA will continue to support the hemp pilot projects permitted under Sec. 7606, and continue to welcome grant and loan applications as well as all other applicable funding opportunities offered by the USDA and NIFA. “All hemp industry participants are encouraged to participate in these funding opportunities” stated Whaling. “The USDA confirmed that 9 Industrial Hemp funding requests to NIFA are being processed and that the USDA has encouraged those who submitted previous requests to resubmit them.”

While the USDA does intend to fully support hemp under the existing regulatory environment, it too welcomes the opportunity to engage with the DEA in differences over legal and regulatory interpretation – a stance that should prove helpful in moving forward with the introduction of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.

“The USDA also offered to provide a quick response to any Secretary or Commissioner of Agriculture who is looking for clarification on either the Farm Bill or SOP, which may be preventing the States that have enacted enabling Industrial Hemp legislation from advancing research,” said Whaling. “This is a welcome change over the previous administration.”

Corresponding with the USDA meeting, Whaling had the occasion to update Representative James Comer and Senator Bob Casey, a Member of the US Senate Agricultural Committee.

In addition hemp leaders from throughout the US were invited to a legislative update regarding the status of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act and its introduction to Congress during the current session. Jonathan Miller hosted the conference call with Kentucky Congressman James Comer who is the lead sponsor of the bill and who has been a tireless advocate of hemp as a de-scheduled agricultural crop.

Congressman Comer hopes to have the bill introduced in July, while continuing to gain key support throughout Congress and the committees that are most influential to getting the legislation passed. While legislative compromise is expected, the bill’s primary purpose is to remove hemp from the Schedule I substance list, set workable levels for THC content, and allow states to self-regulate the cultivation of hemp. With these limited legislative approvals, hemp will be able to move forward in dramatic ways, encouraging both investment and economic growth within the hemp industry.

The National Hemp Association looks forward to the introduction of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act and will provide Congressman Comer, and his co-sponsors, our full and committed support in passage of the legislation.

“There is new leadership in the USDA, on the Hill and within our industry” said Whaling. “I am confident that this group will advance our industry to a level never before achieved.”

Now would be a good time to contact your Senator and Representative and ask them to cosponsor Senator Merkley’s SAFE Banking Act (S.1152) and Congressman Comer’s Industrial Hemp Act when it is released in July.

Please consider becoming a member to help support our efforts both in Pennsylvania and on the federal level.

Hemp History Made in Pennsylvania

Traditionally the first week of June marks the week long ‘Hemp History Week’. The last several years we have hosted events in conjunction with Hemp History Week to not only celebrate the rich history of hemp in PA, but to push for hemp legislation.

This June is different. This year we make history!

Technically, for the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, the historic moments began on May 31st when, after overcoming frustrating roadblocks and delays, we were finally able to pick up our seed! 670 pounds of Anka which is considered a dual purpose crop.

We wasted no time and planted our first field the very next day!  June 1, 2017 we planted 5 acres in Bethlehem. After literal years of fighting for the right to cultivate hemp it was almost surreal that the moment had finally arrived.

Just 2 days later, on June 3rd with a group of amazing volunteers, we went to Pinchot State Forest to plant our most challenging trial. This 5 acre patch of land is freshly reclaimed coal mine land. It is a barren moonscape that has not seen any vegetation in decades. With all the contracts and delays we did not have the time we would have liked to prep the field but felt it imperative to move forward knowing that despite how well the hemp grows this year, what we learn will be immensely valuable in the planning for next year.

A week later we hosted a Celebration of PA Hemp in Bethlehem within walking distance of the field we planted on the first. We were honored to be joined at the event by Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, Senator Judy Schwank, Senator Mike Folmer, Representative Russ Diamond who all spoke about the journey to get where we are and the tremendous potential for hemp moving forward. We also were thrilled to have several of the other permit holders come and speak of the important trials they are conducting. Each participant and each trial have their own story and are worthy of their own blogs. We will be talking a lot more about each of them and following their progress.

To help demonstrate the versatility and potential of hemp we had some wonderful demonstrations at our event. Artisan Hemp taught attendees about hemp paper making. Lime Works demonstrated making a hempcrete wall. Penn’s Best Mill Company was pressing fresh hemp seed oil. We also has several other vendor’s showcasing their hemp products along with the Dept of Agriculture who set also up a display. A huge thank you everyone that participated and attended, it was a beautiful day and we hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!

On Monday the 11th we went up to Pinchot to check the progress. We weren’t expecting much but to our delight we were greeted by sprouts! While its too soon to get too excited, the sprouts were fragile and the conditions harsh, it was a very hopeful sign! We look forward to going back up this coming week to see how they are doing.

We also checked our Lehigh field. In just five short days after the last time we checked the sprouts had transformed into seedlings! We look forward to following these healthy and happy plants through the summer! There is still one more trial for us to plant, this one being on an old zinc mine as part of another remediation trial. We are hoping to get those seeds in the ground this coming week.

There is so much to say and there is still much work to do. Tomorrow, the work continues. Together we can help farmers, build a sustainable industry, develop new technologies, create jobs and return Pennsylvania to its rightful place as a leading hemp producer.

Today we only wish to take this moment to remember how we got here, indulge in the sheer beauty of seeing living, growing hemp plants back in Pennsylvania soil and daydream about the future.