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The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository, Co-Located At Cornell AgriTech In Geneva, Will Be A Major Hub For Genetic Analysis And Research On The Crop, Providing A Shot In The Arm To Burgeoning Upstate Industrial Hemp Industry

 Schumer Successfully Advocated For $500K In Federal Funding For Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository As Part Of Fiscal Year 2019 Omnibus Spending Package, Also Fought Tooth And Nail To Pass His Legislation Deregulating Industrial Hemp In 2018 Farm Bill  

 Schumer: Industrial Hemp Seed Repository At Cornell AgriTech Is A Win-Win For World-Class Scientists, Farmers, And Booming Upstate NY Industrial Hemp Industry

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that work will soon commence at the brand new and nation’s only Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository located at Cornell University. The Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository program will be rebuilt with an initial $500,000 investment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva. Schumer fought tooth and nail to secure this funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Omnibus spending package. Additionally, Schumer’s legislation the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, created a permissible pathway for the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp, paving the way for projects like the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository to take root. The ARS funding for the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository is targeted towards re-establishing a national public industrial hemp seed bank overseen by a curator charged with characterizing, maintaining and distributing seeds. Schumer said the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository will be an invaluable resource to the rapidly expanding Upstate industrial hemp industry, in that it will help breeders and geneticists develop new cultivars, while also helping to identify genes for pest and disease resistance.

“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. 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,” said Senator Schumer. “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. As work gets started at the Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository, the seeds we have sown will soon be ready to harvest.”

“We are grateful to Senator Schumer for his hard work to secure this federal funding,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “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.”

Schumer explained that while there was previously a national industrial hemp germplasm program, or seed bank, it was destroyed along with all of the industrial hemp seeds in the collection when the crop was designated a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Schumer said that the $500,000 in ARS funding is the downpayment necessary to reestablish this program and rebuild this lost collection in collaboration with Cornell’s world-class researchers. They have already started to assemble and characterize an industrial hemp germplasm collection to breed new cultivars of the crop and study its genetics and genomics.

Schumer explained that the public germplasm repositories maintained by ARS, like the new Industrial Hemp Germplasm Repository, are vital resources for their corresponding agricultural industries. The researchers at Cornell AgriTech have collaborated extensively with ARS germplasm curators in the PGRU, specifically among the grape, apple, cherry, tomato and Brassica crops.

The Schumer-backed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). It passed and was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation:  

  • Removes industrial hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act
  • Empowers states to be the principal regulators of hemp
  • Allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and
  • Makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance

Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown largely for industrial uses, but it can also be utilized for food, oil, and cosmetic products. Hemp contains a very small amount, typically between 0.2 and 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and while from the same species of plant as marijuana, it has varied widely in use. However, due to the existence of THC in hemp, Schumer explained, both plants were considered “controlled substances” under federal law, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was the primary regulator for hemp production. Schumer argued that this narrow view has undermined the crop’s agricultural and economic potential. With the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed by Congress and signed into law last year, this unnecessary roadblock has been lifted, and industrial hemp’s significant potential to become a cash crop in Upstate New York’s will be unleashed.