ALBANY (USA TODAY Network) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to provide a boost to the state's nascent hemp industry, proposing Wednesday that the state lift a cap on the number of permitted hemp farms.
Cuomo announced his proposal Wednesday during a State of the State address in Syracuse, his fifth of six speeches he's given since Monday.
The governor said his plan would remove the current limit of 10 permitted hemp sites in the state, allowing more opportunities for businesses to start-up and grow while promoting coordination between private farms and the state.
“New York is a beacon for innovation, smart growth and emerging industries – and with this proposal, we will continue to diversify and grow our agriculture industry, while supporting research and development and creating jobs throughout the state,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Hemp is a plant similar to marijuana, but only contains small amounts of THC. Its stalk and seed can be used to manufacture clothing, building materials, fuel, paper and other consumer products.
New York first launched a pilot program to research hemp in 2014, and last year it was expanded to include industrial hemp.
Cuomo said lifting the state's cap on hemp farms could be a boost to the Southern Tier, which have the ideal climate and soil for hemp to grow. Both Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and
SUNY Morrisville College have produced hemp as part of their ongoing research projects.
Bills creating the state's previous hemp programs were sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-
Endwell, Broome County, and Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County.
“When the Federal Government gave the green light in 2014, I knew the Southern Tier was an ideal spot given our rich farming history and the amount of available land,” Lupardo said in a statement. “New York is poised to be a leader in this expanding industry.”
O'Mara praised Cuomo's proposal, as well, calling it "another step in the right direction.
This proposed expansion will allow private farms to conduct research with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and grow the product.
Cuomo also said the state will hold an industrial hemp summit later this year, which will focus on the cost of production, potential markets, and the profitability of growing hemp. A date and location for the summit has not yet been set.
Includes reporting by Albany Bureau staff writer Jon Campbell.