The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it will be making grant money available to support the “breeding, testing and development” of “superior performing” hemp varieties.
Under the agency’s Supplemental and Alternative Crops (SAC) competitive grant program, one task for hemp producers would be to help to build up USDA’s Hemp Germplasm Repository in New York.
Overall, the objective of the program is to “produce results to increase the cost effectiveness and competitiveness of [hemp] grown as components of production systems across the country.”
In addition to industrial hemp grown for “value added products,” the funding is also available to operations growing canola for oil.
“The purpose of this integrated research and extension program is to adapt these multiple-purpose crops to diverse growing regions in the U.S.,” a notice states, “so that domestic canola oil and industrial hemp production can be significantly increased and be profitable nationwide.”
Funding Opportunity: @USDA_NIFA's Supplemental & Alternative Crops Competitive Grants Program supports projects that lead to expanded adaptation/increased acres in US of canola grown for oil & industrial hemp grown for value-added products. View RFA/Apply: https://t.co/yIK4AbpRD9 pic.twitter.com/8VAmQaKVni
— NIFA (@USDA_NIFA) January 5, 2021
USDA announced a similar SAC research grant in 2019, noting the need for improved efficacy in hemp cultivation following the crop’s federal legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill. But the funding for this year’s program is markedly increased, from $50,000 to $125,000 per year for a project period of up to four years.
“The SAC program encourages applicants to establish and work through region-based, multi-state research networks to address priority national or regional science needs of the canola and industrial hemp industries,” USDA said. “The SAC program seeks to accelerate the development and use of superior varieties and practices adapted to regional conditions that produce benefits to growers and allied industries.”
Grant applications must be submitted by March 30.
Hemp seeds that are produced and collected through this program will be stored at a recently established facility at Cornell University’s AgriTech department in Geneva, New York. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is expected to soon become the body’s majority leader, announced that work had begun on the nation’s only hemp seed bank in late 2019.
“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,” the senator said at the time. “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.”
Separately, in November USDA awarded a national hemp advocacy group $200,000 as part of a program meant to promote international trade policies that support the industry.
The Department of Justice is also issuing a different federal agency a $350,000 grant to help to develop a method of differentiating hemp and marijuana, since the latter remains federally illegal.