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LANCASTER, Pa. — At the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit, the state Ag Department rolled out a $460,000 program to aid growers of hemp and other niche crops.

The Specialty Crop Block Grants were created in the PA Farm Bill this summer.

Funding will be available to enhance the market for and competitiveness of crops, including hemp, which are designated as high priority because of their growth potential.

“We are building a new industry, literally from the ground up,” Ag Secretary Russell Redding said in opening remarks at the summit, which was presented by the Ag Department and Team Pennsylvania Foundation with Lancaster Farming as a key sponsor.

New state Specialty Crop Block Grants will be available to fund specialty crops not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program, and those designated as high priority crops in the state: hemp, hops, hardwoods, honey; and barley, rye and wheat for distilling, brewing and malting.

Eligible projects enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crops — for example, through research to increase conservation and environmental outcomes, enhance food safety, develop new and improved seed varieties, or improve pest and disease control.

A percentage of funds will be designated to projects in rural communities with at least 20% of the population below the federal poverty line.

A summary of eligibility and potential uses of funding can be found at agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill.

Full grant guidelines will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Lancaster Farming