CBD hemp colas soak up the Pennsylvania sun in 2019.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture begins accepting mail-in applications for the program on Saturday, Dec. 5. Online applications will not open until January.

In 2020, the second year of the state’s commercial growing program, following a two-year research pilot, the department issued permits for more than 500 growing sites and 60 processors statewide. Permits for the 2020 season are valid through February 2021.

Applications for 2021 will be accepted through April 1. The program is operating under the requirements of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill and the USDA Interim Final Rule for hemp production. Processor permits were new in 2020 and continue in 2021. Information about permit holders will again be on the department website to inform business decisions and help connect growers and processors.

New or aspiring growers are encouraged to review application instructions and information on new minimum plant limits and opportunities for written exemptions for qualified commercial projects including planting for removing soil contaminants.

Each property where hemp is grown requires a separate permit. An initial permit costs $150. Permit renewals are $50. Applicants interested in easier application, renewal and online payment are encouraged to wait until January, when the upgraded system is expected to be available.

“Hemp production represents a return to our heritage and a wealth of new opportunities,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Hemp has seemingly endless uses as sustainable building materials, fabrics, paper and resins, plus scores of food products all spell out a bright future for growers and processors alike. Pennsylvania is committed to creating a commercial hemp program that works for small and large growers, new and established businesses, and urban and traditional agriculture.”

For more information on Pennsylvania’s hemp program, visit agriculture.pa.gov/hemp or contact the hemp program staff at 1-223-666-2561.

Redding is also encouraging growers, processors and anyone interested in pursuing business opportunities in the emerging industry to attend the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit Interactive Virtual Summit next week, Dec. 8-9. Sessions include:

• Navigating Rules and Regulations: An Update From Federal and State Leaders

• Filling Processing Needs and Building Lasting Agricultural Infrastructure

• Grow Local, Process Local, Buy Local — Building Our Supply Chains

Register online at pahempsummit.com. Students and Pennsylvania permit holders are eligible for a special registration rate, and call-in options are available for those without internet access.

Contact HempSummit@TeamPA.com for details. For information about call-in options for attending the virtual summit, call 717-233-1375.

Hemp was grown in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States until after World War II but became regulated along with marijuana, and its cultivation was prohibited under federal law.

Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant. Unlike marijuana, hemp is grown mainly for fiber and seed and must maintain a concentration of the psychoactive chemical delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, below the .3 percent legal threshold.

As a result of the 2019 and 2020 commercial growing seasons, the department has provided a list of prohibited crop varieties and varieties of concern that yield THC levels above the legal threshold.

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