02 Jun Growing Hemp in North FL
A goal of mine is to stay on the cutting edge of these regulations and to learn about the permit requirements for growing hemp in Florida so that when it is finalized, I’ll be prepared to assist customers looking for suitable hemp properties in our area of North FL! We have been receiving calls curious about the status of legalization and inquiries for suitable property since the 2018 Farm Bill. I anticipate in the coming months we will begin putting together a list of suitable hemp properties in North Florida (farms, processing, etc.) that meets the upcoming rule requirements. These will be at www.floridahempproperties.com in the near future. In the interim- If you’d like to join our email list specifically for hemp properties when they’re available, and to receive summarized updates like this article, you can do so at this specific form box below;
What you’ll learn in this article about growing Hemp in North FL (Click any link to go direct to that section):
- Current Hemp situation in FL, and real world growing info from the only legally permitted farms within the state (May 2019)
- Uses for Industrial Hemp
- Legalities of growing Hemp in FL and considerations in doing so.
Current Hemp Situation in FL and real world growing challenges
With the 2018 Farm Bill, re-scheduling low THC (Under .03) Industrial Hemp to a crop, the states then had to implement their own regulatory system. It’s very important to note here that it is NOT legal to possess any form of Industrial Hemp in Florida until you’ve been granted a permit. As of yet, permits have only been issued to the 2 Land Grant universities in the state, UF and FAMU. Through this pilot program the University of Florida has been assessing the risks of growing this crop, and attempting to discover unknown variables that may be found during the growing process within our state. The universities have their own programs and were granted permits through the legislature in prior years, SB1020 deals with public growing (See further below).
Led by Dr. Zachary Brym, UF’s pilot program is assessing the potential issues in growing hemp and different logistical concerns:
Seed import and transportation challenges
Obtaining seeds reliably, storage in transportation, discovering preferred environmental conditions for seed and cultivars has also been a learning experience for all involved so far.
THC testing parameters and “hot” plants
Legislation mandates that the Hemp plants be independently tested by a 3rd party to ensure they’re within the THC level legal guidelines as well as have growing sites available for random testing by the overseeing agency at any time. However UF’s pilot program has found that some plants have a tendency to go rogue or “hot” and wind up with THC levels above the legal limit. What exact conditions make them go “hot” is unknown so far.
In addition, part of the state-wide rule making process is expected to address how these situations can be remedied and what thresholds there are to trigger something like say individually removing a plant from a field, or having to destroy an entire field. How long will a farmer have to remedy the violation? What percentage of “hot” plants in a crop is allowable until the entire crop must be destroyed? The answers to these questions are not yet known until FDACS (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences) finishes rule making.
If hemp plants randomly begin to grow outside of intended environments by means of rogue seeds or otherwise, UF is assessing the potential for its invasiveness. Hemp has a score of 21 on the level of being invasive. A score of 8 is considered high. So, it is considered to be extremely invasive. It is possible that a bond for growing/managing an invasive species plant may also be required as part of the future permitting process. More on invasive plants and the dangers of them here.
As of this writing and from what I learned at the UF/IFAS Alternative Crops program on May 20th, there are not yet any chemicals certified to treat Hemp crops with. This makes them extremely risky to grow as they have been susceptible to some aphids, white fly, and cucumber beetles have already been found in test crops. An infestation of anything would be difficult to treat and would likely rely on organic growing style methods until approved commercial chemicals come into the picture.
Due to the present nature of the value of the plants, seeds, and seedlings, it is likely that security will be a concern for future growers as well until such time that the market prices stabilize significantly. Rural, secluded properties off the beaten path with few neighbors and no visibility from public access roads will likely be preferred at minimum.
UF is testing 46 different varieties that were available to them to test out. With these different varieties we will hopefully find out and know which ones are best for germination, yield, has the most consistent THC levels, and more. This is all part of UF’s process with their test fields, although it may be years before we have truly conclusive opinions and recommendations from them for things like this.
Daylight and Nighttime Hours – Some varieties of the crop also require long days (12+ hours of sunlight) to mature through the vegetative state which means indoor growing is likely to be the preferred method where lighting conditions can be controlled, unless a specific variety is found that works better in our daylight hours. Most parts of Florida only get 12 hours or more for 30 days or so. You’ll also need 12+ hours of night time darkness for the plant to get through the flowering state, another challenge since Florida’s longest nights are just over 10 hours long and the shortest ones under 8 hours long. Which varieties (if any) are suitable for Florida’s sun cycles outdoors is not yet known.
Awareness and distinction – Another significant challenge is that Industrial Hemp with legal limits of THC and high level THC Hemp/Marijuana plants are indistinguishable visually. They are both Cannabis Sativa, and the only way to distinguish them is in a lab to test the THC levels. Hence, the reason as a part of our FL legislation, the mandatory testing requirement. Public perception and awareness of these distinctions will likely require the carrying of proper permits and test results at most times to prove you aren’t in possession of still illegal high THC Hemp.
Uses for Industrial Hemp
We will only cover a brief list of Hemp uses here – your own additional research will reveal how large of a topic this is, and all the versatile uses.
Fiber – for use in textiles.
Human Food – seed oil, greens., beverages.
Livestock feed – forages.
Building Materials – Hempcrete is from a process where lime, hemp stalk centers, and water are mixed into a slurry and then later cures into a concrete like product.
Biomass and renewable plastics.
Medicinal – CBD and terpene extracts.
Environmental remediation – Hemp plants appear to be good at pulling heavy metals out of soils and are likely to have some utility in cleaning up and remediating contaminated properties. The extent of the effectiveness and best practices are not yet known.
Legalities and permitting for growing hemp in N. FL
As far as permitting in an non academic environment, currently in FL we have SB1020 (Recommended reading) that deals with this. Its expected to take effect July 1st of 2019. You can read the bill text for all the details but basically the FDACS (Florida Division of Agricultural Science) will have to design an implement a permitting system. That is in the works currently, and there are several public commentary meetings scheduled in order for the public to comment on and participate in the rule making process.
There are expected to be several different types of permits, as growers of hemp in FL as well as processors of hemp products will need to be permitted throughout the state. There is an expectation that once the dust settles from the rule making period that there may be different types of permits for each type of processing or end use for hemp. Any hemp products that’ll be used in human consumption will have to meet Food Safety Act requirements, from the growing stages, all the way until the final consumer packaging stage. This is an important distinction because so far many other states have not individually regulated the hemp products for human consumption to additional and more encompassing standards.
There are 2 public workshops scheduled for rule-making process this (2019) summer still, and much more of this will become more certain afterwards. As it sits, it would be difficult to even select a property to use for growing. The required setbacks, buffer zones, minimum lot sizes, security requirements, and a myriad of other things just are not yet known. We suspect based on comments from Holly Bell (FDACS’ Director of Cannabis) at the recent UF Alternative Crops workshop on May 20th 2019 that it’ll likely be end of 2019 before permitting parameters are in place.
We will continue to receive updates and research the rule making process as it happens so we can stay on the forefront of this high interest topic. If you’re interested in Hemp Properties in FL or receiving future updates like this as the system progresses further, please sign up for our Hemp Properties / Permitting email list below;