The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has announced that it will begin the process of issuing for commercial growing permits for industrial hemp cultivators within a month.
Although the US government legalized hemp growing at the federal level almost two years ago with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, it has been left up to the states to develop their own regulatory framework to govern the industry.
And until now, lawmakers in Florida have dawdled behind many other US states, much to the frustration of local growers looking to add another crop to their arsenal.
The hype machine is going to continue. I'm seeing a lot of producers getting into this with no agricultural background. Florida can be the No. 1 state in medical marijuana and hemp. I'm just not really sure we have a good handle on demand. University of Kentucky Agricultural Economist, Tyler Mark
According to the regional director of the South Florida Agriculture Department, Ricardo Alvarez, federal officials are already reviewing Florida's hemp rules, however the state the state will retain complete control of issuing grower permits.
"The goal is to get permits out in time for an April or May planting date," Alvarez said.
The only fees involved with the application process will be the cost of a criminal background check—which is a typical requirement for licenses of this nature—and there will be no limit to the number of permits issued or acreages approved.
Although, one obstacle standing in the way of a Floridian hemp industry is the state's hot and humid climate, which is not ideal for growing hemp, as the plant tends to grow better in cooler northern locations.
Other commodities have eventually flourished in the state—despite not being native to it, such as strawberries and blueberries—however this has previously relied on the development of localized strains that are capable of handling the harsh Floridian climate.
An agricultural economist for the University of Kentucky, Tyler Marks, also identified an oversupply of hemp in the CBD market as another challenge that Florida's cultivators will have to overcome.
"At this point, we don't have enough information to make recommendations," Marks said
"That's a problem in every state. The (plant) genetics are not stable."
"At this point, we only have a snapshot of what you can get (in hemp varieties) from countries around the world."
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