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State money to support hemp processing plant in Southern Tier

By Charles McChesney


New York State is continuing its push to make commercial hemp, marijuana’s less potent cousin, a commercially viable crop in the state.

During his Jan. 3 state of the state address Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated the state would spend $650,000 to support the building of a plant to process hemp.

 “In the Southern Tier our development of the hemp industry will continue by partnering on a new hemp processing facility,” Cuomo said.

Late last year, as part of the Regional Economic Development Council awards, the state said it would provide the money for a $3.2 million hemp processing plant to be owned by Southern Tier Hemp, a company co-founded and chaired by Michael P. Falcone. Falcone is chairman and CEO of Syracuse–based Pioneer Companies. 

The planned expenditure is the latest in a series of spending and legal measures to encourage the development of hemp growing and processing in New York.

In 2014, the state created a pilot program to research hemp as a commercial crop. The material, derived from a form of cannabis largely lacking in the psychotropic compound that gives marijuana smokers a “high,” can be used in a number of products, including rope, creams, soap, paper and even food. However, hemp cultivation was banned in the U.S. until 2014 when President Barack Obama signed a law legalizing growing hemp for research.

In 2016, the state approved Binghamton University’s application to participate in state efforts to research hemp.

Last year, according to Cornell University, more than 1,700 acres of hemp were cultivated in the state, including at the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva and at 25 farms.

Also last year, the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council included a request for funding to help privately held Southern Tier Hemp develop a plant to process the material for commercial markets.

Donna Lupardo

State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D–Endwell, has been a vocal supporter of the moves, co-sponsoring the 2014 bill that created the pilot program. She praised the governor’s announcement, adding that she saw more growth on the horizon.

“I expect the size of this proposed plant will need to expand because of the growing demand to process different varieties of hemp,” she said in a release. “Industrial hemp has tremendous economic potential for our region: putting farmland back to use, establishing processors like Southern Tier Hemp, and bringing many new manufacturing opportunities.”

According to Lupardo’s office, no site has yet been chosen for the Southern Tier Hemp plant. 

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