Farming

Pennsylvania opens 2022 licensing amid signals of shift to fiber

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A total of 426 hemp growing permits were issued in Pennsylvania in 2021, down from 510 last year, agriculture officials reported as they recently opened licensing for the state’s growers and processors for next year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said a figure for total hemp acreage is not yet available for 2021 following a nearly 75% drop in fields between 2019 and 2020.

After 324 licensed growers registered 4,000 acres for hemp production in 2019, Pennsylvania’s first year of legal commercial planting, 510 licenses were awarded in 2020 but less than 1,000 acres were registered, and half of those were not harvested. Many of those licensed in 2020, most growing hemp for CBD, presumably stayed on the sidelines that year after a severe oversupply of that derivative hit the market at the end of 2019.

Hemp widespread

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has said hemp growers are active in nearly all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, and that the state boasts more than 60 processors. While a majority of those facilities are for CBD processing, there are beginning signals that some in the state’s hemp sector are making a shift to fiber.

DON Enterprises, Newcastle, said late last year it is developing a decortication factory in the western part of the state to serve farmers within a 200-mile radius in Pennsylvania and neighboring Ohio. And Sivana Converting LLC, Sunbury, announced in July it plans to turn part of a former textile mill into a factory to produce hemp-based biodegradable plastic food containers, cups, plates and straws.

Support for research

Meanwhile, the state has supported research into such things as the life cycle of hemp derived building materials, has backed research projects in genetics and management practices while funding initiatives that raise awareness of hemp and hemp products. Research into cannabinoids and hemp seed in animal feed has also been supported with state grants.

Hemp permit applications for the 2022 season in Pennsylvania are now available on the agriculture department’s website, which also includes maps and listing of hemp permits issued to growers and processors for 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Pennsylvania growers first planted hemp under a pilot program that ran 2017-2018, later allowing commercial operations starting in 2019 after passage of the 2018 federal Farm Bill. The state added processor permits in 2020, with 65 registered that year.

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