The DON Processing Team has taken its vision for an industrial hemp fiber processing hub in western Pennsylvania to a panel of state legislators.

Responding to an invitation, DON Processing LLC testified Monday before the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia. Philip Berezniak, co-founder of DON Processing, and Lori Daytner, vice program of program development, spoke before members of the committee regarding DON’s plans, which include both a decortication facility and a HempWood production facility.

The decortication facility will process hemp stalks into fiber and hurd, the inner woody core of the stalk, providing the missing link in the supply chain for developing a domestic supply of those commodities. Fiber is used in products as diverse as automotive components, building materials, plastics, textiles, and more. The hurd is used in animal bedding and building materials.

The HempWood facility would produce pressed hemp lumber suitable for most interior non-structural products and processes and engineered flooring that can be refinished up to four times.

“DON has worked and invested for over four years to develop the foundation for this production hub,” Berezniak said. “Further support from the state to help bring this opportunity to regional farmers for an additional crop for their rotation will position Pennsylvania as a leader in hemp production.”

Committee members asked questions about market viability, impact on numbers of farmers, and how they could support the goal of leadership in industrial hemp fiber production. DON presented and explained various hemp-based products including hemp fiber batting insulation, hempcrete, hemp-based plastic cutlery and straws, textiles, and HempWood lumber and flooring produced with hemp grown in Mount Jackson and Enon Valley.

The products sparked an intense round of questions about the potential impacts for manufacturers and job creation.

“We are uniquely positioned in Pennsylvania — we have the right soils, climate, precipitation, and we have farmers with deep expertise,” Daytner said. “They need support to learn and test this new-again crop, but we are confident in their ability to pass the learning curve quickly.

“Our farmers are not mono-crop, they are used to trying new things and they are highly adaptable. We need to support them and get to the point where it makes sense financially for them to grow this crop.”

Last month, DON held a ribbon-cutting for its Project PA Hemp Home at 506 Spruce St. The home is Pennsylvania’s first complete renovation of a blighted house using hemp-based materials.

The policy committee signaled high interest in exploring how to support for Pennsylvania to take a leadership position and requested DON to provide additional follow up information on the needs of the industry for further consideration.

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