According to the Teacher’s Toolkit released by the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Education, hemp will play a central role in the state’s upcoming Farm Show event.
Hemp Included in Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Annual “Farm Show” Event
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the United States. It was first held over one hundred years ago, and it soon grew into the massive occasion we know today, with over 10,000 displays and events spread across dozens of categories like draft horses, dairy cattle, hard cider, horticulture, and much more. Generally, the Farm Show is a lively celebration of the half million people employed and the $185 billion generated by Pennsylvania’s agricultural industries each year, but the show is going to look a bit different in 2021.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is Going Virtual
For the first time ever, the Pennsylvania Farm Show will be going virtual. And while that news might lead to difficulties for some would-be attendees, it will surely be a nice change of pace for students working through a stressful school year. Back on Wednesday, December 23rd, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agricultural and Education announced several agriculture and STEM learning opportunities for K-12 students at this year’s show.
Commenting on the announcement, Agriculture Secretary Russel Redding said, “every year, the PA Farm Show offers learning experiences and exposure to a growing field with real-world, rewarding opportunities. Wherever you are on your career path – whether you’re looking for hands-on learning, career inspiration . . . the 2021 virtual Farm Show will offer opportunities to learn and engage with agriculture and the science, technology, and engineering driving it”.
From the looks of it, hemp will serve as the educational cornerstone of one of those opportunities. Listed in the event’s introduction on the second page of the Teacher’s Toolkit handout provided by the Departments of Education and Agriculture, “lessons include how to make butter, plant-based plastics made from hemp and other sustainable materials, and more”. Specific details of hemp’s role in the sustainable materials lesson haven’t been released, but the environmental benefits of the crop have been clearly outlined in recent years.
Farmers Recognize the Sustainability Benefits of Turning to Hemp
Hemp has shown to be inherently sustainable, allowing people to let go of worries regarding irresponsible farming and manufacturing in regards to the crop. When looking at sustainable practices, there are a few areas that need attention: the social implications of the crop, the economic effects of the crop, and – most importantly – the crop’s environmental impact. The facts are that hemp uses much less water than traditional crops, it produces higher yields within the same space, it’s naturally resistant to pests and diseases, it returns high amounts of nutrients to soil, and it’s suitable for manufacturing just about every product imaginable. It’s a no brainer! That last point is what the Farm Show’s “plant-based plastics” lesson seems to be based on. After all, hemp represents a more biodegradable alternative to the highly harmful petroleum-based plastics that pollute the world today.
Hemp Production in Pennsylvania
Hemp became legal on the federal and state level under 2018’s Farm Act, and the industry has progressed by leaps and bounds since then. In 2020, the PA Department of Agriculture issued 510 growing permits and 65 processing permits – numbers that are expected to grow in the new year. This past month (December 2020), the department began accepting mail-in permit applications from commercial growers and processors to partake in the 2021 season, and state officials seem hopeful of the crop’s potential.
Agriculture Secretary Redding remarked that, “hemp production represents a return to our heritage and a wealth of new opportunities. Hemp has seemingly endless uses as sustainable building materials, fabrics, paper and resins, plus scores of food products all spell out a bright future for growers and processors alike. Pennsylvania is committed to creating a commercial hemp program that works for small and large growers, new and established businesses, and urban and traditional agriculture”.
Hopeful growers and new applicants in Pennsylvania should thoroughly review some notable changes to the 2021 Hemp Program – including modified minimum planting requirements, new research permits, and altered signage requirements. But in addition to recent changes come new opportunities for written exemptions on certain projects and thorough assistance in navigating rules and regulations.
The Fight for Cannabis Reform in Pennsylvania
Even with the hemp industry’s exponential growth, cannabis activists are still struggling in the fight for adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania. Medical use of cannabis was legalized by Senate Bill 3 back in 2016, which also established a taxed system that would supply cannabis to patients in the program. With that, Pennsylvania became the 24th state in the U.S. to legalize pot for medical use, but progression toward full legalization has stalled since then.
In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a statewide tour by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to gather public input on the legalization of recreational marijuana. Commenting on the tour, the governor said, “we could choose to ignore what’s going on in the world and just pretend that nothing has happened, nothing has changed, or we can actually open our eyes and ears and say, ‘let’s go out and ask—let’s find out’”. Once the tour concluded, Wolf and Fetterman announced that 68% of PA residents were in favor of recreational marijuana legalization, and nearly 100% of residents were in support of decriminalization of the plant.
After sharing those figures, Gov. Wolf announced his support for legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, and that support has strengthened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in September, Wolf exclaimed, “now more than ever, specifically right in the middle of a pandemic, we have a desperate need for the economic boost that the legalization of cannabis could provide”. The Pennsylvania governor went on to reference the hundreds of millions in state revenue that Washington and Colorado have generated in past years – both states smaller than Pennsylvania.
Final Thoughts From Pennnsylvania’s Governor on Cannabis Legalization
In support of a change in cannabis policy, Lt. Gov. Fetterman closed the conversation, saying, “legalizing marijuana would create tens of thousands of jobs that require no subsidy. No kind of guidance other than to rewrite the law and allow this business to flourish in Pennsylvania. It’s a turnkey solution and I would challenge anyone, my most intensely opposed critics to name one other policy decision that could have so much immediate impact and so much unambiguous benefits both in terms to our treasury, to our employment statewide. To our social justice concerns”.
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