Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Set to Begin in Wayne County

MARION, N.Y. -- An unassuming cattle farm in the rural town of Marion in Wayne County is set to be the future home of an ambitious agricultural experiment.

The experiment is on hemp, a member of the cannabis family, grown for its fibrous properties as opposed to its recreational use.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly 20 states have passed legislation allowing the growth and research of industrial hemp. New York State is one of them, but for now, it's only allowing for research. That's why 21st Century Hemp is teaming up with RIT as well as a local Wayne County farmer for a pilot program. Despite this, there are still legal obstacles to the endeavor.

"It has 25,000 uses. You can make anything out of hemp. So many of the products that exist today that we use in our everyday lives can be replaced with hemp," said Ira fair, of 21st Century Hemp. "Technically, we can grow hemp legally, but we do have to contact the various law enforcement agencies, because wherever you transport the material, they have to know where you are transporting it."

Because of its association with marijuana, the plant has been federally outlawed since the 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act. Only recently have states such as Kentucky and Colorado been able to produce the plant so far.

Even the farmer, Jason Gratton, who has volunteered his land for the project, will be ineligible for some federal funding because of his involvement in the program. The pilot program intends to grow three acres of the plant in a secluded part of the farm. Gratton hopes to experiment with using it as feed for his beef cattle.

"We all have expectations or hopes that this can be profitable,” said Gratton. “We hope to expand our opportunities for farmers in New York, but it's certainly not a get rich quick plan."

Despite the obstacles, there is hope this could bring a new, versatile agricultural option to Upstate New York farmers. 

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