Pennsylvania’s hemp industry has received another boost, thanks to a $1 million National Science Foundation grant.
Industrial hemp was a major crop in the state prior to prohibition coming into effect in the 20th century. Hemp had been grown in Pennsylvania since the 1600’s and such was its importance, it was declared to be among four staple crops. After more than seven decades of prohibition, hemp was able to be grown in Pennsylvania again starting in 2017. Today it can be legally cultivated in the state for food, fibre and medicinal purposes.
Since 2017, the hemp sector has seen significant support to help get it moving again. The most recent assistance is the $1 million Regional Innovation Engines Development cash announced last week, which was awarded to Vytal Plant Science Research for the development of an “Industrial Hemp Engine”.
This initiative will support the manufacture and deployment of innovative, hemp-based products for application in green building construction, packaging, fabrics, renewable energy and land remediation.
U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08), who announced the award, is Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
“This grant, made possible by the CHIPS and Science Act, will boost an industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is again presenting opportunities for new businesses, farm income, good-paying jobs, and climate friendly, environmentally sound products,” he said.
Vytal’s project is occurring in partnership with Penn State University, Emory University, and public and private partners. Further information on the initiative can be found here.
Other recent support for hemp in the state was a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture grant to support activities designed to boost sales, export or consumer awareness of locally manufactured hemp products.
Pennsylvania’s hemp sector has a very long way to go – it still isn’t among the leading states for production; not even close. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s recently released National Hemp Report covering 2022, 310 acres of industrial hemp grown in the open was harvested in 2022, and just 110 acres in 2021. The significant reduction in 2022 wasn’t confined to Pennsylvania – many other states saw marked drops.