On June 10th, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding visited Cedar Meadow Farm in Lancaster County. This regenerative farm, renowned for its hemp and mixed vegetable production, is owned by Steve Groff, a pioneer in regenerative agriculture and a board member of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (PAHIC). The farm served as the ideal backdrop for Shapiro to unveil his 2024-25 budget proposal, which includes significant measures to strengthen Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. The state’s $132 billion agriculture sector is a vital economic engine, supporting over 600,000 jobs.

Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry is a cornerstone of the state’s economy. Governor Shapiro’s Economic Development Strategy places agriculture at the forefront, proposing $10.3 million in funding for agricultural innovation. This initiative seeks to attract new businesses and sustain Pennsylvania’s legacy as a national leader in agriculture.

The Role of Hemp in Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Renaissance

Hemp, once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy, is making a significant comeback. It offers tremendous potential for industrial products like plant-based plastics, fabric, and sustainable building materials. Hemp also plays a crucial role in soil regeneration, storing carbon and nutrients to improve both water and soil quality.

Pennsylvania has invested more than $1.1 million through the PA Farm Bill and other programs to support research and innovation in the hemp industry. Since the start of the Shapiro Administration, over $500,000 has been awarded, pushing total investments in the hemp sector to $1.5 million. 

Cedar Meadow Farm: A Hub of Innovation

Steve Groff has practiced no-till farming and planted cover crops for over three decades. He was among the first Pennsylvania farmers to grow hemp when it became legal under federal law. His work and leadership has made him a mentor to other farmers nationwide.

During the event, Groff highlighted the farm’s innovative practices, including the development of the tillage radish and the use of no-till farming techniques. He expressed gratitude for the state’s support, which has helped farmers acquire new tools and equipment through programs like the REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) program.

Industry Leaders and Innovation

Erica Stark, Chair of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council and Executive Director of the National Hemp Association, and her husband Les Stark were recognized for their efforts in reviving the hemp industry in Pennsylvania. 

Dwayne Sugars of I-HEMP Katalyst, is actively working to build the necessary infrastructure and attract private investment to Pennsylvania. This effort includes the development of new hemp harvesting machinery and collaborations with local manufacturers.

A Vision for the Future

Governor Shapiro reiterated his commitment to the agriculture sector, emphasizing the need for bipartisan support and investment in agricultural innovation. He highlighted the importance of farms like Cedar Meadow in driving economic growth and ensuring a sustainable future for Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.

Shapiro’s administration is focused on making meaningful investments that not only support farmers but also enhance the state’s competitiveness in the agriculture sector. His vision includes creating a robust platform for farmers to thrive, emphasizing the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and national security.

With the proposed $10.3 million investment in the Agriculture Innovation Program, Pennsylvania is poised to remain a leader in agricultural excellence and sustainability. The continued support and development of the hemp industry are integral to this vision, promising a bright future for the state’s agriculture sector.