Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on Friday that work has begun on the creation of the nation’s only hemp seed bank.
The announcement comes months after $500,000 in funding for the project was included in a large-scale omnibus spending bill. The “Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository” will be located at Cornell University’s AgriTech facility in Geneva, New York.
“When it comes to kicking Upstate New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry into an even higher gear, the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository is just what the doctor ordered,” Schumer said in a press release. “Not only will this facility act as the United States’ only industrial hemp seed bank, but it will also allow the world-class agricultural scientists at Cornell to help boost industrial hemp entrepreneurship.”
“I fought tooth and nail to secure this federal funding while also working to strip back the burdensome federal restrictions that held our farmers and growers back from being able to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity because I knew the potential this crop had to transform the Upstate New York economy,” he said. “As work gets started at the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository, the seeds we have sown will soon be ready to harvest.”
An earlier U.S. hemp seed depository was destroyed after the crop was deemed a federally illegal controlled substance. But since hemp and its derivatives were legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, plans to store and analyze the seeds are back on track.
The half-million investment through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service is “the downpayment necessary to reestablish this program and rebuild this lost collection in collaboration with Cornell’s world-class researchers,” the press release states.
The facility will be “overseen by a curator charged with characterizing, maintaining and distributing seeds,” the announcement says, and the center’s stock will “help breeders and geneticists develop new cultivars, while also helping to identify genes for pest and disease resistance.”
Kathryn Boor, dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that the department is “grateful to Senator Schumer for his hard work to secure this federal funding.”
“The hemp seed bank and the research that it will allow by our Cornell and USDA-ARS scientists will be vital resources for New York state farmers,” she said.
Schumer has gone to great lengths to establish himself as a congressional leader for the hemp industry, and particularly New York-based hemp business. He cut the ceremonial ribbon at the unveiling of an industrial hemp park earlier this week, touting his role in securing the investment from multinational cannabis company Canopy Growth.