Pennsylvania Awards More Grant Money For Hemp

The reality of the cannabis industry, is that it used to be focused on hemp before prohibition. Now, we barely speak about hemp at all; and just smoke the stuff. Recently, Pennsylvania began re-embracing the many possibilities that hemp offers; by funneling grant money into hemp programs.

Pennsylvania grants close to $400,000 to hemp programs

Pennsylvania might not be a recreational state (yet), but it has a huge interest in weed. Just not the kind you smoke. Under new leadership, the state has greatly increased its focus on the hemp industry; by creating programs, and funding for different projects. It aims to bring up the educational standard on hemp; and promote the industry to students, and other populations.

On June 15th, Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, announced that the state was awarding grants to three non-profit programs in the world of hemp. The three programs are geared toward increasing hemp markets for fiber and food, as well as educational programming for everything from kindergarten and up. The grants total $392,265.

The grants cover up to one-half of project costs. Prospective recipients were in a highly competitive situation, in which organizers took special interest in projects that already had other funding, or partnerships. Said Redding in his statement: “Pennsylvania has been making history, building a new hemp industry from roots up. These grants feed the growth of an industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is once again growing opportunities for new businesses, farm income, jobs, and climate-smart, environmentally sound products.”

Pennsylvania awarded grant money to several hemp programs

Who got the money, and what will it do?

$56,000 goes to the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council. The organization has plans to run a campaign to promote hemp and its benefits, and to look for new avenues for hemp-based products. The Council is working with different groups and organizations – governmental and non – to promote the use of hemp once again in the state.

$20,500 goes to (USEARCH) – the U.S. Ecological Advanced Research & Conservation Hub Hemp Certificate Program for Disadvantaged Communities. The company focuses on researching agricultural technologies and associated products. With the money, it will create educational programming for youth, veterans, women, and other disadvantaged communities; with the aim of getting them involved in the hemp industry.

$315,765 to Vytal Plant Science Research. Vytal plans to present a STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, math) to universities and high schools within the state. Students are meant to learn about industrial hemp cultivation, production, and management. The program will focus on the different uses of hemp, including: “food, fiber, fuel, industrial, and personal care products.” Vytal already sponsors research through Penn State’s Central Pennsylvania Research and Teaching Laboratory for Biofuels, on the Harrisburg campus.

How else does Pennsylvania support the hemp industry?

When it comes to hemp, and growing the production industry, Pennsylvania is on a mission. Beyond these recent grants, the state has other programming to get residents educated and involved. The state funds research and development initiatives in universities and other higher learning institutions. And it convened the PA Hemp Steering Committee to create and grow relationships between researchers from different institutions, and cultivators, processors, investors, and insurers.

Pennsylvania also created grants called Specialty Crop Block grants, based on Pennsylvania’s own Farm Bill, separate from the US government’s. This was started before the federal government provided any funding for hemp programs.

Since Governor Shapiro entered office earlier this year, more than $500,000 in grants was given out; which now brings the total in grant investments for increasing the hemp industry to over $1.5 million. The Shapiro administration certainly gives the whole thing a push, but PA has been about increasing its hemp industry for several years now.

Pennsylvania gave grant money to programs geared toward educating youth about hemp
Pennsylvania gave grant money to programs geared toward educating youth about hemp

In 2020, a program was instituted through the yearly Farm Show under the theme ‘Cultivating Tomorrow’. It focused on teaching children in kindergarten through high school about how to make hemp plastic, as a sustainable alternative to regular plastic. The program took place on-line, and included different lessons on organic farming methods; raising livestock; and sustainability, for which hemp was the example.

According to the event documentation, “The virtual Farm Show offers daily STEM demonstrations and activities that can be done at home by K-12 students. Lessons include how to make butter, plant-based plastics made from hemp and other sustainable materials, and more.”

More grant money from PA for hemp

The most recent grants announced earlier this month, follow a number of other hemp-related grants given out in the beginning of the year. On January 27th, Russell Redding announced $200,000 in grants to three different companies, all agricultural non-profits. Much like the more recently-announced grants, these were matched-fund grants; meaning up to half of total costs could get covered, but not more. The three enterprises to receive the last round of grants were:

$48,000 to the Urban Affairs Coalition and All Together Now Pennsylvania partnership. Their program is Pennsylvania Hemp Now, described as “an innovative program to promote hemp in building materials and textiles.”

$150,000 to Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, from Berks, Chester, and Lehigh counties. It’s program is called Project Invest in PA Hemp. The project “represents six companies coming together to attract investment in industrial hemp producers, agribusinesses and entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania to grow supply chains, product development and distribution.”

$2,000 to Transition Town Media of Delaware and Schuylkill counties. The program is called Promoting Hemp as a Transitional Product to Next Generation Economy. The focus of this project is to raise awareness about the benefits of hemp, and make ‘hemp’ a household word.  

Industrial has many uses, like with textiles
Industrial has many uses, like with textiles

Said Redding at the time of this grant announcement, “Hemp has offered a rare opportunity to grow a Pennsylvania industry from the ground up, springing from a material with seemingly limitless uses in sustainable construction materials, fiber and food products. These grants will boost an industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is again presenting opportunities for new businesses, farm income, jobs, and climate-friendly, environmentally sound products.”

Why hemp matters

In today’s cannabis world, you could walk right by hemp without understanding the significance. While nearly every media topic is related to legalization efforts for use; the idea of industrial hemp has practically gone by the wayside. I was surprised that at MJBizCon, the biggest global cannabis business convention, all promotional products that could use hemp, did not. This was true of pretty much every vendor I encountered. Every T-shirt, pair of socks, and piece of packaging material, was from cotton or plastic fibers, and paper (mostly the latter two).

It says quite a bit about the difficulty of growing the industry, that the industry itself, isn’t using hemp. Though hemp can act as a sustainable material for, or in place of: plastics, cement, clothing (even leather), paint, paper, batteries, gasoline, and medicine for many ailments; it often isn’t. Even as our own history is rich with hemp, a history which includes forced grow laws in colonial times; most people today have little idea of its applications.

Hemp offers a a cleaner alternative to the industries just mentioned. On the most basic level, we do a lot of damage to our planet. Think of just gasoline and plastics, alone. In terms of gasoline, the US Energy Information Administration put out information that every burned gallon of gasoline, creates about 19 pounds of CO2 emissions. It goes on that in the US, CO2 emissions for 2020 were around 979 million metric tons for automobile and aviation. That’s 21% of all CO2 emissions for the country for that year.

And plastics? Where to begin? That the US produces 80 million tons of plastic waste yearly? That more than one million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic-related pollution? That one in every three fish caught for our own consumption, has plastic in it? That approximately eight million pieces of plastic waste go into oceans every day, equaling about eight million tons? Sometimes going 11km deep; and sometimes creating areas of ocean that are too toxic to go in, since plastic microbeads make the water a million times more toxic.


Hopefully, more states will go the way of Pennsylvania, and start instituting hemp programs; including education for kids. For now, hemp sits as a fantastic industrial resource, which we generally only smoke.

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Hemp Building Symposium Coming to France

The 10th International Hemp Building Association Symposium takes place this year in Lacapelle Marival, France, from the 11th to 12th of October. As ever, this event promises to be a showcase of the latest technologies in building with hemp from around the world, along with interesting applications for hemp fibers in other industries, in particular the textile industry.

With the rising interest in environmentally friendly and sustainable building materials, the popularity of using hemp raw materials in building projects is spreading. As a result, new technologies are emerging to make the process more efficient. In this interview with International Hemp Building Association founder, Steve Allin, he explains what people can expect from the 10th edition of this event, the history of the industry, and the implications of working with hemp.

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Question: Why did you start the International Hemp Building Association Symposium?

Allin: It was a result of hosting the first symposium here in my hometown of Kenmare in 2009. That event attracted so much interest from so many different parties from around the world we realized it was time to get together to discuss this technology and the materials, as well as all the implications of using these materials. I was one of the early adopters in the industry, and was in contact with various people. There was a project in France in the 80s, and in the early 90s, other projects popped up around Europe, which is when the industry began to really get going.

Back then, there was a lot of discussion going on, ideas about how best to use the materials that were developing quickly. Many people were coming up with ideas for what to mix hemp shiv with, what types of binders to use. So, it became obvious to me, it was the right time to bring all these people and ideas together, which resulted in the event in Kenmare. We hosted a 3-day event and it was a great success, with more than 70 people from around the world, and from then on, we decided to create a formal association.

Question: What is the goal of the International Hemp Building Symposium?

Allin: We want to do a few things. First, we want to add value to the farm, and give more farmers reason to grow hemp. But we also aim to tackle the question of how to demonstrate hemp as a building material while also taking into consideration the wider implications of the plant.

Question: What are some of the implications of growing industrial hemp?

Allin: There’s no point growing hemp unless you have access to some kind of industrial processor. Unfortunately, it was a huge disaster in the U.S. when lots of people decided to get into growing vast fields of “industrial hemp.” I use inverted commas because they were growing the plants for CBD and that material isn’t really useful for anything else, which meant the market there was flooded, creating terrible outcomes on many levels.

Industrial hemp is a different plant that produces fibers, biomass, wood chips and has seeds. Each one of those has to be part of the processing system and that’s why the topic of hemp connects with so many other industries. This plant can provide solutions to all sorts of problems for humanity in general because it covers the basics: food, shelter and clothing. These are things everyone needs, which is what makes hemp so unique.

Question: What kind of solutions does building with hemp offer?

Allin: We’re offering all kinds of solutions with hemp building. First, the raw materials don’t need a huge amount of processing and are low energy. But more importantly, we’re creating building materials that are carbon-negative, so materials that pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and store it. And even though these materials can store carbon, they drastically reduce the amount of carbon inside buildings, which has huge implications for health. And hemp is easy to work with, doesn’t involve lifting heavy blocks that demand lots of strength. Any healthy person, man or woman, can build a house with hemp. It’s an equal opportunities employer.

Question: What makes the Hemp Symposium different from other hemp conferences?

Allin: The plan from the beginning was to host a symposium in a different place every year. Even though that creates a lot more in terms of organization, the aim is to bring people to see projects in development. Rather than standing around conference halls talking about these things, we want to get people physically involved, and show the raw materials and technologies in action. It’s the best way to promote a new technology because it enables people to get a real grasp of it.

Question: Why is the membership of the Hemp Building Association so diverse?

Allin: When we set up the association there was no real need for a national association as no market was big enough. But when you put all the activity together, and look at the global implications, it’s a different story. Hemp can be grown in so many different locations, and has different implications for energy needs in hot or cold, wet or dry climates. Plus, every country has different codes and regulations. So, to really understand it, and uncover ways to adopt new technologies, a global perspective is required. We’re currently working with the U.S. Hemp Building Association and the European Industrial Hemp Association to create a building code for Europe, and there’ll be presentations about that at this year’s symposium.

Question: What new tech will people see at this year’s symposium?

Allin: This year we’ve got the most amazing collection of new technologies, including demonstrations by at least three different spray machines, if not more. The demonstrations on the program include AKTA-BVP, Baumer, and Tecnocanapa. This is a demonstration of mixing hemp shiv and applying it to walls. We also have a new processor demonstration of a new medium-scale machine, which processes hemp at a scale that many small communities could achieve. It produces both building materials but also high-quality fiber materials to be used by the textile industry.

That versatility drives up the value of hemp by creating a new application, which makes this a very interesting machine. But there’s lots of research going on at the moment about different ways hemp can mixed and applied, and those projects will be on display too. There are lots of projects testing hemp in extreme environments. One project is a 12-story hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, and another is a hostel in the Himalaya Mountains with a hemp envelope.

Question: What is the current trend in the hemp building industry?

Allin: Right now, there’s a move towards pre-fabricated blocks or panels, or modular housing systems. One of the largest markets for hemp is retrofitting. We’re interested in restoring the buildings that people currently use for work and living.

Question: How is hemp used by the textile industry?

Allin: Right now, hemp fiber is used by the clothing industry as a blend for linen, so a percentage of a linen cloth might be hemp to create a more ecological material. Hemp is far more environmentally friendly to grow than flax. Also, there are a lot of supply chain issues in the textile industry at the moment due to the shortage of flax. And it looks like it might be a permanent problem. Which is why the focus has shifted to hemp as a way to produce fine textiles in order to replace flax in the linen industry.

That said the most common use of hemp fibers is for the cotton industry, which is an incredibly fast and complex system of producing yarns. To fit hemp fiber into that model is not easy, as it’s difficult to get the same fineness from hemp. But the machinery that’s in place is designed to work with cotton, which is why they get such good results. The technology to get similar results from hemp is just not there

Question: But this new textile technology to be presented at the symposium gets similar results?

Allin: Exactly. We want to demonstrate how this processor can produce fibers in a way that’s applicable to the textile industry. The machine produces a fairly clean and lined material that can then be used for ribbon making to make woven sheets of finer material. Because it’s lined, the material can also be put through various carding and chopping machines, basically cut into short lengths so it can be used in the cotton industry. This is another huge market opportunity for hemp, and outside of China, the market isn’t being supplied.

Final Thoughts

To see the program for the 10th International Hemp Symposium Building Association, click here:

Hotel info can be found here.

The projects in Nepal are instigated by S.H.I.V.

The project in India:

This is must-see event for anyone interested in the future of building with hemp.

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