US group pushes hemp ‘center of excellence’

US delegation to EuropeNHA Chairman Geoff Whaling (far left) led a recent delegation to Holland-based HempFlax where the group met with CEO Mark Reinders (second from left). Also in attendance from the USA were Hugh McKee, Flaxcraft; Jeff and Erin Williams, Williams Farm; Erica McBride, NHA; and Cameron McCoy, Lehigh University.

A U.S. hemp stakeholder group is developing a “center of excellence” to advance America’s industrial hemp industry. Two Pennsylvania state universities, Lehigh and Jefferson, along with the National Hemp Association (NHA) and the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (PAHIC), both non-profits, are working on the project.

“The U.S. industrial hemp industry is now at the stage that we need to transition from a cottage industry to a commercial scale,” Geoff Whaling, chairman of the NHA and president of PAHIC, told HempToday. “Researching every step of the supply chain, while examining new products, markets and end product costs is going to be the most important next step.”

Multi-million-dollar initiative

As part of proposed multi-million dollar initiative, the alliance has already received commitments from regional farmers in southeastern Pennsylvania to secure 3,000 acres for hemp farming to demonstrate the viability of a planned industrial hemp research park, Whaling said.

A federal “center of excellence” designation for the initiative could lead to U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, the group says. To help achieve its goals, the partners have already expanded their academic and not-for-profit network and look to establish relationships with international firms who’ve developed technology needed for hemp farming and processing.

Probing supply chains

Jefferson University launched the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp last year. Jefferson has a supply chain management program as does Lehigh, an engineering school which has been at every step of building the U.S. steel industry. The proposed center is seen carrying out supply chain research and new product development while providing reference services to other stakeholders and investors. PAHIC and Lehigh partnered on three of the 16 approved Pennsylvania hemp research projects last year.

Talks with Europeans

A Pennsylvania delegation recently made a pitch to Holland-based HempFlax regarding the Dutch company’s hemp farming and processing equipment, and discussed other cooperation possibilities during meetings in Europe.

HempFlax, one of Europe’s biggest and most prominent hemp companies, is a producer of semi-finished and finished products made from ecologically grown hemp and flax fiber. The company is also a developer of harvesting and processing technology, and has interests in Romania.