How does a state department of agriculture go about setting up a program for a commodity crop that hasn’t been grown in the state for over 80 years? What should that program look like? How can it best serve all the players involved? How can farmers’ voices be heard and not get lost in the wilderness that is the nascent hemp industry?
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has facilitated the creation of a hemp steering committee that will help guide the department as it works the kinks out of the new hemp program. It consists of people from up and down the supply chain, from farmers to processors to manufacturers, policy experts, academics and more.
For building a hemp industry from the ground up, “it was really important to get all those perspectives in there — whether it was the financial entities, the insurers, the growers, the processors — we needed all of those voices at the table,” said Shannon Powers, Ag Department press secretary, on a recent episode of Lancaster Farming’s Industrial Hemp Podcast.
The steering committee has existed for the past few years, but this year its structure was refined and a leadership team was formed.
The team consists of nine members from industry and five ex-officio members from the Ag Department and Team PA, a nonprofit group that acts as a bridge between government and industry in Pennsylvania.
Ron Kander, an engineering professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, has been chosen to chair the leadership team.
His recent work focuses on an integrated study of the material science, process engineering, product design, supply chain economics and sustainability of industrial and consumer products made from hemp-derived materials.
“As an academic, I kind of don’t have a dog in the fight, if you will, so I can be sort of an impartial chair of that leadership team and help them manage the steering committee at large around the four subcommittees,” he said.
Leadership Team and Subcommittees
• Leadership Team Chair: Ron Kander
• Farmer & Processor Education & Outreach Subcommittee: Ben Davies and Chet Lapp
• Supply Chain & Market Development Subcommittee: Jake Sitler and Peter Hughes
• Research Opportunities & Needs Subcommittee: Cynthia Petrone-Hudock and Josh Leidhecker
• Policy & Regulation Subcommittee: Erica Stark and EmmaRose Boyle
• Ex-officio members (from PDA and Team PA Foundation): Fred Strathmeyer, Katie McLaughlin, Sarah Pickel, Michael Roth and Kelly Kundratic
In his introductory letter to the steering committee, Kander writes, “The purpose of the steering committee is to serve as an advisory body to the PDA and to the industry. It is made up of senior stakeholders and experts that provide guidance on hemp in the commonwealth, federally and internationally; including matters related to new research and technology, policy and regulations, market development, farmer and processor education.”