Penn State was just given a large grant to help support hemp production from the Pennsylvania Farm Bill. Announced on June 25th by the state’s Agriculture Secretary, Russel Redding, it was given the highest priority out of all the programs that also received funding from the farm bill, approximately $160,000 from the total fund of $460,000.
$126,000 of the fund went to Penn State University who is working on a project that “optimizes genotype selection and management practices for Pennsylvania hemp production,” according to an article from Hemp Today. Franklin & Marshall College also received $36,000 in funding for researching how to “establish a comprehensive baseline assessment of oomycete pathogen pressure on hemp plants.”
Genotype selection refers to the genetics of the hemp plant, which is like a genetic code that stores all the information regarding the growth and appearance of that plant. Oomycetes are actually fungi or fungal pathogens, which can cause mildew, bright spots on plant leaves, canker or root rot, and more unwanted problems.
Since the grants are from the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the Specialty Crop Block Grants program under the bill will be funding the two hemp projects.
A Bold Investment
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Farm bill is a “bold, aggressive, and necessary investment in Pennsylvania agriculture to grow opportunities and resources, remove barriers to entry, and inspire future generations of leaders within agriculture.”
It provides support for leading industries including new marketing opportunities and organics which is where the Specialty Crop Block Grants program falls under. They “invest in priority Pennsylvania crops such as hardwoods, hemp, and hops.”
Other high-priority crops in Pennsylvania include honey, barley, rye, and wheat for brewing and distilling. Along with the hemp program funds, Penn State received “a $69,797 grant to study the spotted lanternfly’s impact on the hardwood ornamental industry” and a “$72,049 grant to create a Specialty Crop Block Grant Brewing Program,” according to an article from Onward State.
The Specialty Crop Block Grants program awards back development for high-priority crops that are not funded by the federal special crop program. The other programs that were funded “aim to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crops through research to increase conservation and environmental outcomes, enhance food safety, develop new and improved seed varieties, and improve pest and disease control,” according to state officials.
“Increasing market access and competitiveness means investing in crops with high growth potential that otherwise may be overlooked,” Redding said. “There is strength in our diversity, and we need to ensure growers – no matter size, scope or production – have every opportunity to succeed.”
The priority to research, improve and talk about the hemp and cannabis industry are clearly growing for Pennsylvania.
Scott Conklin, the state representative also said in a recent statement, “While we have had a strong craft brew industry here in Pennsylvania, these funds will help our state to continue to strengthen the industry and provide additional opportunities in the agriculture field.”