Hemp Cultivation is Legal in Florida… So Where Are the Hemp Farms?
The Florida Senate Bill 1020, better known as the Hemp Farming Program signed into law on July 1st, 2019 deemed the cultivation of Hemp in Florida a legal activity.
This change in legislature came as no surprise to most individuals observing the increasing popularity of Hemp cultivation nationwide. State policymakers have taken action to address various policy issues such as the definition of hemp, licensure of growers, regulation and certification of seeds, state-wide commissions and legal protection of growers. At this time, 47 states have enacted legislation to establish industrial hemp cultivation and production programs. This raises the question: If Hemp Cultivation is Legal in Florida… Where are the Hemp Farms.
Red Tape Decorates the Path to Cultivation
This answer lies in the slowly evolving regulatory processes surrounding the agricultural expansion of Hemp.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) published the Notice of Proposed Rules for the State Hemp Program. This Department authorizes and oversees the development of the State Hemp Program to regulate the cultivation of industrial hemp. Under this program, it’s unlawful for a person to cultivate industrial Hemp in Florida without a “License to Cultivate Hemp”. This license is issued by the the FDACS. A person seeking a license to cultivate industrial hemp must submit the following to the Department:
- A completed Application for a License to Cultivate Hemp
- A detailed description of each plot location intended for the cultivation of hemp. This includes address, legal land description, tax parcel number, and GPS coordinates.
- A full set of fingerprints for each control person and the responsible person. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement evaluates these for state and national processing.
- Fingerprint processing may identify criminal charges or convictions related to a controlled substance violation under state or federal law. The Department then notifies the applicant that they need additional information to complete the application.
- The applicant must provide to the Department a certified copy of the final disposition concerning the matter which the Department requested additional information pursuant to this section within ninety (90) days of receipt of the notification.
This is only the beginning of the process which extends through a 36 page program proposal and induces astronomical fees. Even more frustrating, the state denies applications from private entities at this time! This means only two entities received allowance to grow hemp in Florida.
So Where are the Legal Hemp Farms?
Under current legislature, Industrial Hemp cultivation is only authorized at the University of Florida and Florida’s Agricultural and Mechanical University. However, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nikki Fried, wants all CBD products sold in the state to be grown locally in the next two years. “We’ve got a lot of acres here in the state of Florida, a lot of our agricultural community that’s excited and motivated to get involved in hemp,” she said. Fried expects more than 100,000 Florida acres to be filled with industrial hemp. More than 30 states presently have industrial hemp projects; however, Florida has a comparative advantage in growing season and markets. “Industrial hemp has potential as a valuable and impactful alternative crop for Florida,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
To support the future viability and sustainability of an industrial hemp industry, legislation must make preliminary assessment of the crop and establish cropping systems prior to commercialization. The program looks to identify productive hemp varieties that can withstand environmental, ecological and economic threats. Researchers also study the risk of any hemp plants becoming invasive threats to Florida’s environment.
Progress can be a Slow Process
Many critics of Florida’s Hemp Program point out how quickly other states such as Kentucky and Indiana were able to produce organic Hemp crops, effectively boosting the farming economy. If Florida could finalize the program and begin issuing licenses many local farmers would benefit. These benefits would come from the revenue while possibly creating jobs from local laborers. Until this evolution finalizes, many hopeful producers wait eagerly for their chance to grow fields of fresh green Hemp!