Pennsylvania invests in crops for brewing and distilling

A look at the facility at Cairns Family Farm on Sept. 25, 2019, in Sadsbury Township, Pennsylvania. (Matt Smith for Keystone Crossroads)

A look at the facility at Cairns Family Farm on Sept. 25, 2019, in Sadsbury Township, Pennsylvania. (Matt Smith for Keystone Crossroads)

Pennsylvania is betting on booze to help grow the economy.

The Department of Agriculture plans to award $460,000 in grants for specialty crops, most of which can be used to make craft beverages.

Hops, as well as barley, rye, and wheat specific to distilling or brewing are eligible for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, part of the PA Farm Bill initiative. Projects involving hemp, honey, and hardwoods are also able to apply.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in the volume of craft beer produced and the industry continues to grow.

“That supports new businesses and new jobs that in turn pump money into their local economies and attract visitors to spend more dollars in their community,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary for the agriculture department.

The grant program aims to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of crops that aren’t eligible for federal dollars.

Powers said investing in these growing industries can help create new jobs and opportunities.

“It give farmers, for example, an opportunity to branch out into something different,” she said. “Particularly if they want to diversify their business so they have a cushion against a market that’s unstable.”

In the case of hemp, state officials hope the grants can be used to help create a supply chain for the brand-new industry.

Many farmers are looking to newly-legal industrial hemp to help their bottoms lines. The state issued more than 300 growing permits for the crop this year.

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