By Karla Arboleda and Abbey Taylor
Industrial hemp could be the next cash crop in Florida. However, there are many details to complete and hoops to jump through before growers can get their hands on the hemp.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Hemp Pilot Program strives to give growers the answers they need regarding this new crop. Jerry Fankhauser, assistant director of the Florida Experiment Station, has played a key role in the program and its outreach efforts. On June 6, Fankhauser held a meeting at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center for growers interested in industrial hemp. This meeting was one of several the program is conducting throughout the state.
Fankhauser says the meetings provide a great update on the pilot program’s efforts as well as a preview of what’s to come. For now, growers will have to wait for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lay some ground rules in each state.
“Based on that state hemp plan, there should be a permit process for growers to have access to grow hemp commercially,” Fankhauser said. “Besides the two land grant universities, you cannot grow it in Florida.”
Since its inception in August 2018, the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Program has been functioning by the 2014 farm bill, approval from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and a board of trustees at UF. Hemp became an agricultural commodity when the 2018 farm bill passed, but that doesn’t confirm that just anyone can grow it.
“We’ll get there, but currently a few other things need to happen on the federal side before we go any further,” Fankhauser said. “IFAS is committing to do as much science as we can as soon as possible and have data out there for growers hopefully as we come into the fall season.”
Listen to Fankhauser’s full interview with AgNet Media Founder and President Gary Cooper:
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has scheduled three workshops in June throughout Florida for anyone interested in learning more about the future of growing hemp. The meeting schedule is as follows:
South Florida Hemp Workshop
Thursday, June 20, 9 a.m.
Broward College, South Campus
Performing Cultural Arts Theater
Building 68 A, Room 151
7200 Pines Blvd.
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
Central Florida Hemp Workshop
Friday, June 21, 9 a.m.
4800 U.S. Hwy 301 N.
Tampa, FL 33610
North Florida Hemp Workshop
Monday, June 24, 9 a.m.
R.A. Gray Building
500 S. Bronough St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
“Our team has been working behind the scenes to get out some drafts, which is why these workshops are so essential,” Fried said. “Hopefully with all the transparency along the way, we will have a smooth rule-making process.”
Listen to Fried’s comments regarding hemp:
Despite the excitement from potential growers and advocates for the crop, they will have to wait just a bit longer. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressed that officials want to be very careful in commercializing hemp.
“It’s an unusual and unique crop, and we want to make sure we have the right rules and regulations in place over a crop that … looks like a crop that’s illegal. So we have to have certain standards there,” Perdue said. “We expect to have those definitive regulations out before the next planting season in 2020.”
Listen to Perdue’s comments:
Share this Post