The federal government has taken a major step toward promoting U.S. hemp production. Last week, it was announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has received $500,000 in funding for the nation’s only industrial hemp seed bank, to be located at Cornell University in upstate New York. The money was approved as part of a federal funding package for USDA.
The 2018 Farm Bill revamped federal policy on hemp, removing it from the federal list of banned controlled substances and reclassifying hemp as an agricultural product. Included in that omnibus legislation was the Hemp Farming Act, authored by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), authorizing creation of an Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository.
Sen. Schumer, in a press release announcing funding for the repository, described it as an “invaluable resource” for the hemp industry and said it will provide a much needed boost to hemp growers in New York. Sen. Schumer characterized the $500,000 funding as “the down payment necessary to reestablish” a seed bank that was destroyed years ago when hemp was classified as a banned substance under federal Controlled Substances Act.
“When it comes to kicking Upstate New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry into an even higher gear, the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository is just what the doctor ordered,” Sen. Schumer said. “Not only will this facility act as the United States’ only industrial hemp seed bank, but it will also allow the world-class agricultural scientists at Cornell to help boost industrial hemp entrepreneurship.”
“The hemp seed bank and research potential it gives our Cornell and USDA-ARS scientists will be vital resources for New York state farmers,” said Kathryn J. Boor, Dean at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
In a statement, Cornell said the new repository will “benefit hemp growers all across the nation,” as scientists will be breeding hemp varieties that grow well under different conditions. Hemp varieties cultivated under the new program could be ready for growers within 5 years, the university said.
Hemp is a type of cannabis plant largely grown for industrial uses, but can also be utilized in a variety of consumer products, including clothing, food and cosmetic products. Hemp-derived CBD oils also have gained significant popularity for medicinal and recreational uses. The U.S. market for hemp has been skyrocketing in recent years. The Cannabis Financial Network projects the industry will grow to $2.1 billion in 2020, from $400 million in 2016.