New York’s New Cash Crop
Industrial hemp has long been prized as one of the simplest crops to plant, grow and process. Now, thanks to a significant investment from New York State, and to partnerships with New York’s top research institutions and universities, the crop is returning to New York fields with the potential to grow both research and economic opportunity for farmers and businesses.
In July of this year, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that redefined and clarified industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity in New York State. Up to $10 million dollars in grant funding available through two initiatives will aid farmers, researchers and processors embarking on industrial hemp cultivation. The Governor has also established a working group to advise the state and support and guide the industry as it expands.
Industrial hemp has a long history as a multitasking material, used in everything from clothing, rope and twine to the lighter-than-steel materials carmaker Henry Ford once incorporated in an automobile prototype.
Today, the plant’s sustainable qualities have boosted its growing popularity among the first New York State farmers and researchers granted permits to grow industrial hemp – from Ellisburg and Goshen to Hudson and Buffalo.
More than 20 licensees now produce industrial hemp on some 2,000 acres. That’s a 6,000 percent increase from the 30 acres of industrial hemp grown on Eaton’s JD Farms, which was the state’s first legal grower under a pilot research program enabled by the 2014 Federal Farm Bill. Industrial hemp can be used to make paper and as a source of biofuels, and its growing cycle also makes for a very small carbon footprint.
A Bright Future
The potential for industrial hemp is significant. With more than 25,000 different applications across a vast cross-section of industries—from building materials and biodegradable plastics to animal feed and health products—industrial hemp is a growing investment in New York State’s economic and agricultural future.