First National Industrial Hemp Seed Bank on the Horizon

Written by Lisa Rennie

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) is opening the country’s first industrial hemp seed bank at Cornell University in New York.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) helped secure federal funding for the USDA-ARS to make this bank possible, while also working to minimize federal restrictions that limit the freedom of American farmers to grow industrial hemp as a commodity.

The USDA-ARS will work with Cornell University researchers, who are already collaborating together on other crops.

The new seed bank is intended to help scientists pinpoint genes that are pest- and disease-resistant, allowing them to breed new variations of the plant while also providing New York hemp farmers with better resources. Further, such a bank will also provide New York with an economic advantage.

While the bank will certainly help out the local New York area, it is also positioned to benefit hemp growers all over the country, allowing them to breed hemp varieties that will be able to thrive under various conditions. With more genetic resources for these plants made available, scientists will be better able to breed different types of plants that are useful for various reasons, such as to thrive in specific temperatures and climates, manage pests more effectively, and so forth.

Advocates for the new seed bank want hemp farmers to be able to grow their crops in environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways, that will help them be profitable and able to grow plants that can withstand various conditions.

The market for hemp is already taking off in the US and is expected to hit $2.1 billion by 2020.

Industrial hemp has long been used for fiber, fuel, paper, biodegradable plastics, construction, and health food. In fact, it’s been cultivated in the US for centuries and was once considered an essential vital crop. Farmers in certain states were actually required by law to grow it.

Unfortunately, because of its association with marijuana and the THC within that causes psychoactive effects, hemp was eventually prohibited by law to be cultivated according to the Marijuana Tax Act that was passed in 1937.

But by December 2018, after decades of stigma and legal restrictions, hemp became legalized after President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law that contained a provision to legalize hemp.


About the author

Lisa Rennie

Lisa Simoneli Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content dedicated to informing consumers. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others, and in her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying funky new recipes, spending time with her dog, and of course, reveling in the joy of family.