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PA: Redding Visits Industrial Hemp Research Project

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited JustBen Agriculture's Mifflin County farm Monday to view progress at one of 16 research projects that seek to demonstrate the economic value and viability of industrial hemp as a marketable crop in Pennsylvania.

"Thanks to the federal Farm Bill and Gov. (Tom) Wolf's bipartisan work with the General Assembly, we now have the chance to re-establish this promising crop in Pennsylvania," Redding said.

JustBen is comparing four varieties of hemp for potential use in food and fiber. The 5-acre project was approved under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, which the department launched in December after Wolf signed Act 92 of 2016.

"Before hemp production was banned in the U.S., hemp was grown and marketed for a tremendous variety of uses," Redding said. "In the decades since, Pennsylvania has missed out on valuable economic opportunities. We're hopeful that these research projects can spur the return of a promising crop and decreased dependence on imports.

JustBen Agriculture melds the skills of Justin Frederico, an organic chemist with extensive industrial experience, and his lifelong friend and farmer Ben Hall Jr.

The project intends to gain a better understanding of what varieties will grow well in Pennsylvania and what cultivation practices will work best. Marketing research is also a key element of the project.

"We're excited by the prospect of growing hemp in Mifflin County," Frederico said. "And we're especially thrilled to be contributing our skills for the betterment of Pennsylvania families.

"In the short term, our focus will be researching hemp as food and fiber," he said. "Ultimately, we envision a fully operationalized farm planting, growing, cultivating and harvesting industrial hemp for food and fiber for Pennsylvania – and continuing to research hemp's uses."

Redding is in the process of visiting each of the 16 projects in the program during the growing season.

Visitors to Ag Progress Days on Aug. 15-17 at the Russel E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Pennsylvania Furnace, can tour the university's project 2-3 p.m. each day, or attend one of four presentations by the state Department of Agriculture on hemp at the department's building.

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