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Reading Eagle article covering the PA Hemp Conference
People frequently ask Shawn House if his pretzels are going to get them high.
The answer is always no, said House of Columbia, Lancaster County. His pretzels are made with hemp imported from Canada, not marijuana. In a perfect world, House would buy hemp from Pennsylvania farmers the same way he buys wheat.
A new state Senate bill, the industrial hemp bill, could get House one step closer to that dream.
House spoke Saturday at a Pennsylvania Hemp Conference during the 99th Pennsylvania Farm Show. The meeting was hosted by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.
The conference aimed to teach visitors about the myriad uses for hemp and to introduce the bill, said Les Stark, an Exeter Township resident who is part of the coalition.
Stark said he hoped the conference would inspire visitors to reach out to their local representatives and encourage them to support the industrial hemp bill.
The measure, which is being introduced by state Sens. Mike Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican, and Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, would allow hemp production through programs sponsored by research institutions, such as an agricultural college, or the state Department of Agriculture. The bill follows guidelines set by the 2013 U.S. Farm Bill.
At the conference, Schwank and Folmer both spoke about the benefits of hemp production, including the plant’s ability to bring nitrogen back into the soil.”This bill is a win-win-win for Pennsylvania,” Folmer said. It’s a win for agriculture, the economy and the environment. It would help farmers stay on farms. This is a no-brainer.”
“It’s all about providing another crop for our farmers,” Schwank said.
Hemp can be used in foods and oils as well as clothes and building materials.
“It’s not going to be a miracle crop, but it offers us something else to grow,” Schwank said. “I look forward to helping to promote this legislation.
“Twenty states have passed legislation to let farmers grow hemp, said Ben Droz of Vote Hemp, who also spoke at the conference.
In the meantime, House sells his hemp pretzels, or hempzels, through his business, Lancaster Trading House. He has a booth in in the Main Hall of the Farm Show complex. If the industrial hemp bill were to pass, House said he would consider buying hemp from the research programs.
Hemp was once a powerhouse crop in Pennsylvania, Stark said. Berks County had several hemp fiber processing mills until the mid 1800s. The inventions of the cotton gin and steamship led to hemp’s demise, along with the outlawing of hemp in the 1930s.
Now there are more than 25,000 uses for hemp, Stark said. And farmers are once again showing an interest in hemp production.
“The potential is just unlimited,” Stark said.
Great coverage from FOX43 on the PA Hemp Conference and the introduction of SB50, The Industrial Hemp Act
State senators gathered in support of a bi-partisan bill that would legalize the growth of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania.
“It will help domestic farming, it will help our economy and it will help our environment,” said Republican Senator Mike Folmer.
Senators Folmer and Schwank showed their support for the bill during Saturday’s opening of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
“This is going to be a great thing for the state of Pennsylvania,” Senator Folmer added.
Industrial hemp is often associated with Marijuana but it’s quite different. Hemp is a diverse crop with many uses including paper, plastic, cement, wood and fiber. Hemp seed oil would treat epilepsy, migrane headaches, glaucoma and nerve pain.
“This is about education and I think once our colleagues see the win-win-win scenario here I believe that this should be a no brainer,” said Senator Folmer.
Industrial hemp has been used throughout American history but was outlawed in the 1940’s. Today, hemp is a $500 million dollar industry.
With 7.8 million acres of farmland, Senator Folmer says Pennsylvania is prime for hemp and vital for the future of farmers. “It’s a win for Pennsylvania agriculture to allow our farmers to stay on their farm, be profitable, gives them another cash crop, it’s a great cover crop,” he added.
And with Pennsylvania’s rich history in hemp farming — farmers say it’s about time they bring it back. Adam Thompson wants to take part in the Licensed Pilot Program on his family’s 20 acres of land in Lycoming County.
“I have a relationship with a farmer that’s willing and ready to grow hemp and then he also has the ability to take that hemp seed and mill it into hemp seed oil which will then be sold to local grocery stores,” said Thompson.
That could be the reality if the bill passes. The state can then apply for a permit to grow the seed, for research purposes only.
At least 20 states have declared hemp farming legal but only three have licenses to grow the seed — Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont.
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WFMZ News Article
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers are set to introduce what they call the “industrial hemp” bill. Pa. Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks County, and Pa. Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, said their measure, if it becomes law, would help Pennsylvania farmers tap into the multi-million dollar hemp industry.
“The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers,” Schwank said.
Industrial hemp, Schwank said, has been used for thousands of years in numerous applications and, until the last century, was commonly grown in Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp’s use across a wide spectrum of industries, including textiles, building materials, industrial products, paper and energy and environmental products, according to the lawmakers.
“The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits,” Folmer said. “The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably. Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment. Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp.”
The Hemp Industries Association valued the U.S. hemp industry in 2012 at an estimated $500 million. Schwank and Folmer will discuss their bill in detail during a media briefing at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Saturday.
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Hemp was once a booming industry in Pennsylvania, with mills scattered across Lancaster and York counties, and it may yet return.
In the wake of a federal farm bill earlier this year that opened the door for states to reauthorize hemp farming, two state legislators—who also back a medical marijuana bill—plan to introduce a bill that would do just that.
Sen. Judith Schwank, D-Berks
“This really is a serious crop and it’s an opportunity for Pennsylvania farmers,” said Sen. Judith Schwank, D-Berks County, who will co-sponsor the legislation with Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County.
Hemp, a member of the cannabis species, contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that leads to the high smokers feel from marijuana. Since the 1700s, the cash crop was used to make rope and other fabrics, but was outlawed along with its psychotropic cousin in 1937.
In recent decades, however, a hemp resurgence—backed in part by imports from Canada—has led to a boom in the use of hemp in everything from cooking oils and protein supplements to building supplies.
Some states have also lifted restrictions because of how much more money struggling farmers can charge for the crop. On Saturday, it will be the subject of a conference at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, at which Folmer and Schwank will discuss their plan for its return.
Adam Thompson is one of the entrepreneurs anticipating its revival. The 32-year-old hopes to transform his existing canola and sunflower operation in Lycoming County into one for hemp production.
“It’s considerably more lucrative,” said Thompson, who’s launched the Pennsylvania Hemp Company. “The price-per-bottle is at least double what I get for canola oil.”
Unlike the other plants, he said he could process or sell virtually all of the plant. The seeds, for example, can be crushed into protein powder. The stalks can be sold to third parties to use in textiles and other products.
Retooling the existing facilities would be easy, Thompson said, and he could begin work almost immediately after receiving approval.
Getting approval, however, may be the difficult part.
A year ago, it seemed possible that the state would see the passage of medical marijuana legislation in 2014. But despite passing the Senate, the bill faced delays in the House. Its supporters hope that a revised version of the bill will pass under Gov.-elect Tom Wolf.
Erica McBride, of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, said there’s already a lot of interest farm farmers and the bioenergy industry in hemp. It would seem to be a perfect fit for the state, she said.
“Hemp is good for replenishing soil previously decimated by mining or other industries,” she said. “It puts nitrogen back in the soil, so it’s a great rotation crop, too.”
McBride’s organization has been involved in the push for hemp and organized Saturday’s conference, which starts at 4:30 p.m. in the Keystone Conference Center’s Delaware Room C at 2300 North Cameron Street.
Hemp has historically been linked to marijuana in terms of the law, and McBride said she’s optimistic that both could pass. At very least, she said, hemp has the fact that it has the fact that it is even less likely to be abused on its side.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone opposes hemp,” she said. “Once you get the facts about it, who can?”
Schwank said the details of the hemp legislation are still being worked out, but the overarching plan is to set up a licensing program through which colleges and farmers could apply to cultivate hemp on a probationary period.
Once she and Folmer are able to explain the realities of hemp and their proposal, Schwank said she’s confident that they’ll be able to pick up co-sponsors from both parties and both chambers.
“It really has nothing to do, other than sharing the same genus and species, with the kind of marijuana being used for recreational or medical purposes,” she said. “It’s a legitimate crop.”
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