Resources for Hemp Growers and Traders | Master Edition

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Penn State Extension has a mandate to provide education to citizens of Pennsylvania in a wide range of fields. Agriculture is a key part of this mandate which includes new and potential crops such as industrial hemp. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Extension has researched and evaluated hemp and its many uses since it became legal to do so in the 2018 Farm Bill.

We have done and continue to do various trails for the three main types of hemp (CBD, grain and fiber). Field days and workshops were offered, with over 300 participants attending a field day in 2019 held at the Southeastern Research and Extension Center near Manheim. Many one-on-one consultations and farm tours have been held across the state to support hemp growers and traders. During the pandemic, many webinars and phone interviews have been held to keep people up to date with the latest news and information in this rapidly changing industry.






A hemp variety trial at a Penn State Extension farm.


While the initial rush to participate in this new industry, particularly that of CBD, has passed, supply and demand are aligning as many local producers have exited the market. Many of those who remain are becoming vertically integrated, not only growing, but processing CBD hemp into oils, creams, smokable buds, and other products, and then offering them for sale. Feed manufacturers and egg producers rate hemp seeds as a superior protein source with an exceptional omega 3 fatty acid profile for laying hens. Others value the fiber in building materials, textiles, and for many other uses.

The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) reports that 19,000 pounds of CBD flower production, worth $2.27 million, was grown in Pennsylvania in 2021. Fiber production was estimated at 230,000 pounds , while greenhouse production was estimated at 40,000 plants for clones and grafts.

Extension to a hemp website (https://extension.psu.edu/hemp) with good information for those interested in industrial hemp. For starters, there’s an FAQ page to introduce you to industrial hemp and its many uses. The website has budgets for estimating the cost of production, recorded videos and webinars, and printed materials on growing hemp, disease and pest management, plant fertility and nutrition, and more. The “News and Events” section will help keep you up to date on recent developments within the industry and connect you to additional Penn State hemp resources. There are also links to hemp information from around the country and to the Department of Agriculture website, which discusses licensing and legal issues when growing hemp.

Penn State, College of Agriculture, Plant Science Department is developing a hemp curriculum for interested students. Plant Science 297, Hemp Production was first offered in 2021, the course covers many aspects of this emerging industry, including hemp production and hemp products, as well as legal issues for growers and traders.

The PDA website (https://agriculture.pa.gov/hemp) contains all the legal information you will need to apply for a hemp cultivation permit. Field production permit applications were due April 1 for the 2022 growing season. To grow hemp in Pennsylvania, you must pass a background check and be without a criminal record. In 2021, the Department of Agriculture issued 426 cultivation permits, 64 processing permits and 11 research permits. The website contains an interactive map of the location and business name of every licensed grower and processor in Pennsylvania.

Industrial hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC; otherwise, it is considered marijuana, a controlled substance in Pennsylvania. All industrial hemp production in the state (field or greenhouse) must be tested within 30 days of harvest for THC content. A trained and certified “sampling agent” must perform the sample collection. A list of agents can also be found on the PDA website.

Industrial hemp products in their many forms and uses are found on the market. Research and education conducted in colleges, universities, private companies and by individuals helps to develop these products and find market niches that are perfect for this “newly” discovered crop.


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