The first year that farmers could grow the crop was enthusiastically embraced by the state. The Department of Agriculture gave out 323 permits that covered 812 farms across the state. The total number of acres cultivated came to about 4,000 for the 2019 season.
With 55 permits involving 180 farms, Lancaster county was more eager than most. Growing for CBD was the draw for most of them, with farmers generally trying out a few acres to test the crop out.
As prices have dropped, the USDA has tightened regulations instead of loosening them, choking off farmers. Many hemp companies are struggling, not just the farmers. Groff North America is a York-based business that contracted with farmers to grow 2,000 acres of hemp for fiber in 2019. This year they aren’t planning on contracting for any.
The state has also banned certain cultivars of the plant that focused on CBD. They are also limiting farmers from growing hemp within a certain radius of schools and residential neighborhoods.
As of mid-February, the state reported that 62 farmers have applied for a hemp permit. It’s unclear how many farmers are going to take the risk this year and submit an application by the April 1 deadline.
But just because the green rush didn’t pan out, that doesn’t mean that the crop is dead. Many farmers plan to grow the crop and use it to diversify their crops.
Fred Strathmeyer Jr., the state Agriculture Department’s deputy secretary for plant industry and consumer protection still believes in the crop.
He told the press in a speech he gave that hemp is “absolutely one of the best opportunities that agriculture has had in a long time,” but said farmers need “to be smart about it,” do their homework and not invest money they’re not willing to lose.
“If there’s one area that absolutely needs to happen, it’s to advocate to the masses about the good things this product can do and where it can be placed,” Strathmeyer said.