Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced that the first commercial hemp fiber processing plant, Vitality Farms, LLC, will soon be launched in Wythe County. According to the statement, the facility is currently operating as Appalachian Biomass Processing with plans to invest $894,000 and create 13 jobs.
Plant To Buy $1 Million in Hemp
The plant intends to purchase at least 6,000 tons of industrial hemp valued at $1 million or more from farmers in Virginia in the following three years.
Governor Northam further said that his goal is to pursue every avenue meant to bring economic prosperity to the communities. He also noted that industrial hemp production opens the state of Virginia to a sea of opportunities such as new jobs and businesses. Governor Northam added that Virginia is dedicated to developing a booming and sustainable hemp industry, and he believes that by establishing the processing plant, a market will be opened for the farmers and growers of industrial hemp.
In March, Governor Northam aligned Virginia’s hemp law to the 2018 Farm Bill by signing the bill legalizing commercial farming and processing of industrial hemp. The announcement was marked as the first economic development in the hemp industry in Virginia.
The Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring, said that farmers in the Southern and Western regions if Virginia could benefit highly from the hemp as it has much potential. She further noted that for areas growing industrial hemp to benefit from the crop’s great potential, they must have a processing facility and robust markets for selling hemp products. In Virginia, the number of registered industrial hemp farmers is more than 1,100 and the local hemp market is growing, said Ring.
The governor’s announcement noted that the Appalachian Biomass Processing will use a specialized decorticator to process bales of hemp stalks into two raw agricultural products. The company will sell bast fiber to a North Carolina company for further processing and sale to the textile industry, while the woody core of the plant, or hurd, will be sold to a Virginia company for use as animal bedding. A native of Wythe County, company founder Susan Moore has cultivated substantial industry knowledge and relationships through experience conducting research in partnership with VDACS and the University of Virginia.
Working with Wythe County to snag the project for the Commonwealth is the Department of Agriculture in Virginia and Consumer Services. Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development, through Governor Northam, awarded the project a $25,000 grant. Wythe County was supposed to match the grant amount with local funds.
The Governor’s office released a statement saying that the company will process hemp stalk into agricultural products with a specialized decorticator. Appalachian Biomass Processing will sell the processed bast fiber to another company in North Carolina for further processing, which will later sell the finished product to the textile industry. The woody core of hemp will be used as animal bedding.