By Ernie Neff
Jeff Sharkey, executive director of the Florida Hemp Association, moderated a panel discussion on federal and state hemp policy at the recent Florida Industrial Hemp Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.
“Getting the (hemp) application and licensing is reasonably straightforward,” Sharkey says. “The Department of Ag (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) wants people to be successful.”
Sharkey says his association advises members and clients that they have to see the whole supply chain and value chain in the hemp industry. “That means if you want to grow it … have a clear idea before you put the first seed in the ground how you’re going to cultivate it, how you’re going to test it, how you’re going to dry it and how you’re going to process it.” He suggests that growers should know what kind of product they want to develop. “That’s critical. You have to have a real business plan.”
“This is a booming industry around the country,” Sharkey says. “I think Florida has a real opportunity … There’s so many applications and uses of hemp.”
Sharkey also says some of the 450 attending the conference had questions and concerns about the timeline for Florida’s hemp rule development. He says Florida had to make some changes to its initial rule in order to be consistent with federal U.S. Department of Agriculture rules. “I think at the end of this calendar year we’ll be ready to go, and growers and manufacturers will be able to request licenses and approvals for cultivation and manufacturing,” he says.
Many landowners in Florida have an interest in growing hemp. Some in the citrus industry are considering it as an alternative crop that might be planted on some of the hundreds of thousands of acres of former citrus land lost to HLB.
Hear more from Sharkey about the panel discussion in this interview with Southeast AgNet’s Tacy Callies:
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