ffffThe time to enact legislation that will allow our farmers to cultivate industrial hemp is right now.

One might ask, “are we any closer today to passing industrial hemp legislation?”

The answer is yes, we are very close.

There are two bills currently waiting floor votes in the Pa. General Assembly – Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 967.

Both bills were introduced with bipartisan support into their respective Agricultural and Rural Affairs committees and in May the issue received a bicameral hearing. In October, both committees voted unanimously to send the bills to the floor for a vote.

HempStateInfographicBoth bills attempt to align Pennsylvania law with current federal law. The federal farm bill passed in 2014 contains Section 7606 which allows farmers to grow hemp if affiliated with a university research program or licensed by their state departments of agriculture, provided they live in states that have passed pro-hemp legislation.

Currently, 27 states have passed laws that align with Section 7606 and allow their farmers to grow hemp. Kentucky cultivated 3,000 acres of hemp last year and is entering their third season for growing the crop. Colorado will be entering their fourth year of cultivating industrial hemp and will put in another several thousand acres.

A half dozen states in all grew hemp last year and this year it is expected to be grown in a dozen states including New York. If we can pass hemp legislation right now, we may be able to get seeds in the ground this spring. A delay will force us to wait an entire year while our competitors take the lead.

FarmShowAs a board member of the newly created Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, I talked to hundreds of people this year at the 100th Pa. Farm Show in Harrisburg. It was the organization’s debut event. The mission of the PaHIC is to get the legislation over the finish line and then to match up interested farmers with industry that can make use of the seed, stalk, fiber and cellulose material of the hemp plant.

Overall we talked to thousands of people and what we found out was that there is much excitement about industrial hemp in Pa. No surprise there, after all the Lancaster Farm Bureau passed pro-hemp resolutions all the way back in 1999 and 2000. Farmers all across the state are ready to go and we have industry ready to commit to buying crops of hemp right off the bat.

We’ve been talking about hemp in Pennsylvania for a long time but never has there been this much excitement. We are so close now that we can feel it – the birth of a new billion dollar industry in the commonwealth.

images5R5WX6CYIn Pennsylvania we will use hemp for flooring products, composite materials, plastics, paper, Hempcrete building materials, food products for human consumption, livestock and poultry feed, horse bedding, biofuels, land remediation, cover crops, auto parts and many other exciting applications.

We have everything going for us in Pennsylvania – a rich history of hemp production, an innovative agricultural industry, some of the best soil on earth and close proximity to all major markets on the east coast. With those kind of advantages, Pennsylvania is positioned to not just participate, but to lead in the new emerging American hemp industry.

All we are waiting on is for the industrial hemp bills to be scheduled for votes on the floor. If voted on, we are positive a hemp bill will pass and be signed into law. This will be a positive step for the entire state and will create jobs, protect the environment and help agriculture. That’s what’s called a win-win-win.

Tell the General Assembly they should act now!

~Les Stark