There’s high interest for hemp in New Jersey (Off The Secretary’s Desk)
(Editor’s note: Douglas Fishers is the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture.)
This past December the USDA approved the plan to license the growing and processing of hemp in New Jersey.
While the announcement that New Jersey was one of the first three states to have its hemp program approved by the USDA might have seemed a bit sudden, it was a process that was a long time in the making.
We at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture had been planning for this for several years by attending conferences and visiting other states that had pilot programs.
A history lesson, however, tells us that this is not New Jersey’s first foray into hemp.
It is interesting to note that wild hemp grew on old grain grounds in woods, on hills, and in high glades in New Jersey during the Colonial Era. The fiber was used by Native Americans to make ropes, which were stronger and kept longer in water than those made of common hemp. New Jersey, being a maritime province, needed ropes for naval stores.
The government encouraged hemp production in the 18th century as large plantings were made between Trenton and Newark.
So, from the time of the first settlers, the demand for hemp in New Jersey was strong.
Early indications are that potential growers believe the current demand for hemp products in New Jersey will be high as well.
We have had hundreds of inquiries from those interested in growing hemp and the hemp application page on the NJDA website has had nearly 2,000 direct hits. We are now accepting hemp applications, which are available at http://bit.ly/35dzAQW.
We stress those who do apply to make sure you adhere the directions and complete your application fully. That will expedite the application approval process.
And as for hemp processors, we have also had interest from several potential businesses for that sector of the industry.
We are actively courting processors to come to New Jersey, which by location has quick access to major metro markets such as the New York and Philadelphia areas.
Hemp has become popular for the cannabidiol (CBD) oils that can be extracted from its flowers.
The oils have purported health benefits including pain relief, reducing inflammation, and others. But hemp also has thousands of other uses.
They include seed production (food products, culinary oils, soaps, lotions, cosmetics) and fiber production (fabrics, yarns, paper products, construction materials, etc.).
According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service Report, there are more than 25,000 reported uses for hemp products globally.
Another important player for the New Jersey hemp program will be Rutgers University.
They have several on their staff who have devoted extensive time on growing this crop. Rutgers will have the ability to test which varieties of hemp will grow best in the different New Jersey soils and other environmental considerations.
Part of that testing will be knowing which varieties are easier to keep under the USDA-required THC limit of .03 percent.
We look forward to collaborating with Rutgers and their experts to make New Jersey’s program a leader in the growing and processing of this crop.
As for the department’s preparation, we have brought in a manager for our hemp program, soon to be announced.
This is an important step in developing a staff that will help growers adhere to the regulations that must be followed. We are phasing in the necessary service of testing equipment that will allow us to quickly measure the
THC levels in hemp taken from New Jersey fields. Part of New Jersey’s plan is to visit fields early in the 2020 growing season to make growers aware and to best ensure that a plant does not have a high THC level at the beginning stages of its growth.
Then we will also take a sample later in the growing season to help keep the plants within the prescribed THC limit.
While there will inevitably be a learning curve with this new crop for our state, we want to make that learning curve as short and quick as possible.
Like our growers and processors, we are anxiously anticipating a 2020 hemp crop for New Jersey.
“Hemp is a rapidly growing industry that will be used statewide to produce a variety of manufactured and consumer products,” said New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy. “By establishing our hemp production, New Jersey will lead the nation with this economic opportunity that will create jobs and attract new businesses, which will build a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all.”
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