Industrial hemp, and other news from the agriculture budget hearings

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Apr 6, 2015 2:38 AM

(Harrisburg) -- While state lawmakers debate whether to allow medical marijuana use for a limited number of conditions, the commonwealth's Acting Agriculture Secretary wants to allow industrial hemp harvesting.

Russell Redding says last year's farm bill provides approval for the move, and the market is anxious for supply.

"The cars we drive today, the dashboards, the firewalls, the seat padding are industrial hemp. BMW, Ford Chrysler, Dodge, all those folks are using hemp today in our cars," he says.

Redding says a research institution must also be involved in the operation, but has confidence one in Pennsylvania would be interested.

Meanwhile, the acting secretary hopes to preserve more farmland using state money.

$30 million is the target number.

"That is sort of formula driven, based in part with what counties sort of put up with matching funds and I think they have matched approximately 15 million dollars so you should have a 45 million dollar program this year," says Redding.

Last year, it was estimated the list of farms eligible for preservation was about 1,900 names long.

A state Senate proposal would also make it easier for farmers to lease their lands for ag business while considering farmland preservation.

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