By OWEN WALSH
PENNSYLVANIA — The PA Department of Agriculture (PDA) has recently announced the 2020 Pennsylvania Hemp Program; with it comes some changes to the commonwealth’s regulations on hemp farmers to comply with federal, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.
The Penn State Extension has compiled the changes farmers’ should pay attention to in the following list.
Changes in 2020:
Application for hemp-growing permit is due April 1, 2020.
Reduced application fee, but more permits needed. The 2020 application fee will be reduced to $150 per permit. However, whereas in 2019 one permit holder could establish multiple field sites under a single permit, in 2020 each growing site will require its own application and permit.
Certain varieties will be prohibited. The list of varieties of hemp that will be prohibited in 2020 can be found on the PDA website.
Land area requirements. For outdoor production, a farmer must grow at least one quarter of an acre and 300 plants; for indoor production, at least 2,000 square feet and 200 plants.
Geographic exclusions. Hemp will not be permitted to be grown within a certain distance of school zones, public recreation areas or residential dwellings. There are some exceptions for this, such as for farmsteads, with prior written approval.
Physical separation from other non-hemp crops. This restricts intercropping—growing multiple crops in close proximity—but will probably allow for cover cropping—growing a crop for the benefit of the soil.
A copy of a lease must be provided. For growers renting land, PDA will require a signed copy of the fully executed lease in 2020.
Must report hemp to FSA. Like many other crops, acreage of hemp will now be required to be reported to the Farm Services Agency.
Specifies “key participants” as those who must obtain an FBI background check. Anynoe who has a direct or indirect financial interest in the entity producing or processing hemp, such as an owner or partner in a partnership, or a corporate executive. The background check must be done no more than 60 days prior to the application date.
THC testing. Growers will have to test for THC within 15 days prior to harvest. The crop must be retested if harvest is delayed beyond 15 days. Testing must be conducted by a PDA-approved individual. PDA will be sharing details on sampling protocol and also certification of samplers as soon as they are finalized. Following implementation of the certification program, a listing of certified samplers will be shared with permittees.
Must test the terminal buds of female plants of each variety and lot. Must be “statistically accurate sample”—no details are yet available here on precise protocols for this. The analysis must be done at a DEA-approved laboratory, at the permit-holder’s expense.
Processors must now be permitted. This likely will result in a list of processors in Pennsylvania, which the Penn State Extension is calling a welcome change to make it easier for growers and consumers to find local processors.
Pick up next week’s print edition of The River Reporter for a profile on a hemp grower in Sullivan County, NY.