Pennsylvania officials plan to increase the number of acres permitted for the cultivation of industrial hemp next year from less than 50 acres to over 5,000, reports 90.5 WESA, a National Public Radio station.
This year marked the first time since the 1930s that farmers in Pennsylvania could legally grow hemp, thanks to legislation approved by state lawmakers in 2016. Although less than 50 acres were permitted for hemp cultivation in 2017, State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding says the agency plans to increase this 100-fold in 2018, to around 5,000 acres. Redding believes the crop could increase the productivity of existing farmland.
“Research … at Penn State (showed) that you can actually use industrial hemp as a double crop, behind wheat”, said Redding. “I think if that plays out to be real, that is a game changer. You immediately change what options farmers have and you open up new markets.”
Individual growers or higher education institutions can apply for permits to grow the crop, with applications for next year due by January 19th.