Some State Farmers To Grow Industrial Hemp

By Andrew Wagaman
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Pennsylvania is one of the top five importers of hemp in the nation. According to Erica McBride of “The Keystone Cannabis Coalition”, farmers and entrepreneurs are more than willing to calculate and assume the economic risk of production.

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

Too often in recent years, Heather Skorinko has struggled to make money growing corn and soybeans on her North Whitehall Township farm, which has been in the family for more than 120 years.

She has especially grown weary of the uncertainty sown by ever-fluctuating prices. Corn farmers have seen earnings this decade jump 50 percent over two years, only to drop for the last four years.

But Skorinko found cause for hope in 2015 when she discovered the movement to legalize cultivation of industrial hemp, the strait-laced sibling of marijuana. Both come from the same fibrous plant, but hemp has a negligible amount of the psychoactive substance that gets you high — delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. And it happens to be a versatile crop, used to make everything from rope and clothing to health food and beauty products.

After doing some research, the 60-year-old grandmother realized she could grow hemp on part of her 170-acre farm without buying any new equipment. She began to make plans with a neighboring farmer in the summer after the state Legislature unanimously approved a research pilot program. Here, finally, was a cash crop that might provide stability for farmers. And it could be a boon to others too, potentially spurring a billion-dollar industry in Pennsylvania, advocates say.

Then in December the state Department of Agriculture released the pilot program’s permitting guidelines. It didn’t take long for Skorinko to realize hemp would remain, at least for another year, virtually off-limits to family farms such as hers.

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