Florida: Industrial Hemp Pilot Project – Varieties, Planting Recommendations

Industrial hemp growing under irrigation. Photo: Colorado Department of Agriculture

HOW IS HEMP DIFFERENT FROM MARIJUANA?

Hemp and marijuana are the same plant species, Cannabis sativa. They are legally distinguished based on their THC content, which is the psychoactive compound associated with ‘getting high’. Hemp is Cannabis sativa with a THC content that does not exceed 0.3% by dry weight, while marijuana is Cannabis sativa with a THC content greater than 0.3%. The 0.3% THC threshold is defined by state and federal government. Hemp is used for seed, fiber, oil, construction materials, and non-THC cannabinoids. Some hemp varieties can be high in CBD.

IS HEMP LEGAL TO GROW IN FLORIDA ON PRIVATE FARMS?

No. Industrial hemp planting permits are only available to UF and Florida A&M University. The 2018 Farm Bill directs the USDA to establish a process to regulate hemp at the state level. States are expected to submit state hemp plans on how state departments of agriculture will regulate and administer hemp production.

There has not yet been direct action from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in regards to the new farm bill and is therefore acting on the current laws regarding industrial hemp pilot projects. UF has obtained the first industrial hemp permit from FDACS to proceed with import of hemp materials for the research program.

WHEN CAN A PRIVATE PERSON, BUSINESS, OR ENTITY GROW HEMP IN FLORIDA?

We don’t know. The State of Florida and FDACS will have to update the rules and regulations to allow private production of hemp. As it stands from the 2014 farm bill, Florida legislature will consider a new law following a report from the two-year industrial hemp pilot projects that start this year. This timeline will likely be impacted by a state response to the 2018 Farm Bill.

CAN A PRIVATE ENTITY VOLUNTEER LAND TO FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA’S HEMP TRIALS?

No. Currently all UF hemp research will be conducted on UF property. We have chosen several research stations in diverse locations across the state. UF will be restricting trials to its own property for the foreseeable future.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE INDUSTRIAL HEMP PILOT PROJECT DOING?

The UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project is working to identify varieties and planting recommendations that can be profitable for growers and environmentally responsible. Florida’s climate and markets are very different from other places growing and selling hemp. Most hemp seed and plant materials are comming from those places, so we have to start with variety trials to find marketable hemp that grows well in Florida’s diverse soils, climates, latitudes.

Economic research is being conducted to find the input costs of growing hemp, expectations of hemp’s market value, and a breakeven point to recommend when hemp is an ideal crop. Additionally, we are conducting a study for risk of invasiveness. Our research plan is further described throughout the site and is available on the resources page.

WHAT DIRECTION WILL RESEARCH BE PURSUING WITH ADDITIONAL FUNDING?

We are interested in CBD hemp, propagation, indoors grow, and other areas of research outside the scope of our current budget in support of the Florida hemp industry. We are actively looking for project sponsors to provide funds and direction for our project development.

IS THE INVASIVE RISK STUDY GOING TO BE A HOLD UP? SO LONG AS IT GROWS WELL AND SELLS WELL, WHO CARES?

The Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas conducts a risk assessment of plants not introduced to Florida from existing information related to its growth and establishment outside of the state. Hemp scores in the ‘high risk’ category. It is the role of the Industrial Hemp Pilot Project to better understand how hemp grows in Florida with limited and strictly monitored plantings.

 

We do not intend or expect this process to be a hold up to the industry. The results of our study are intended to inform us how to manage hemp plantings and seed transportation in a way to reduce the invasion risk. The mechanism to permit hemp production is already in place with regards to invasion risk. The industrial hemp planting permits are entered into the non-native planting permits section of FDACS rules, which is the mechanism to regulate plantings > 2 acres of non-native plants at risk of invasion.

CAN THE UF GROW HEMP AND THEN SELL/DONATE HEMP PRODUCTS?

No. For the time being, all research materials are required to be destroyed after our trials. We may partner with industry groups for quality testing and product development, but these products would also need to be destroyed.

WHAT EXACTLY DID THE 2018 FARM BILL CHANGE FOR HEMP?

The bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity. It is also reclassified with regards to the Controlled Substances Act administered by the US DEA. This offers hemp farmers access to financing and crop insurance and removed trade barriers across state lines. The regulation of hemp production will be administered at the state level (FDACS) through state hemp plans submitted to the USDA.

To our knowledge, FDACS has not yet submitted a plan to change the permitting guidelines for hemp production. Industrial hemp planting permits are still limited to UF and Florida A&M University.

IS CBD LEGAL IN FLORIDA?

UF does not take a clear position on the legality of CBD in Florida. We do not have clear and consistent guidance from state and federal regulatory agencies and law enforcement. State medical marijuana laws clearly articulate the requirements for possession of products under that distinction.

States with industrial hemp pilot project have established mechanisms whereby hemp materials and CBD products may undergo product development and marketing in Florida. We are actively seeking clarification on this matter regarding the current status of CBD and the expected status following the 2018 Farm Bill.

FLORIDA GREW SOME HEMP IN WWII. WHY CAN’T WE JUST GROW THAT HEMP?

The hemp market of the 1940s was oriented around an exceptional demand for fiber to supply the US and allies with cordage and durable canvases for the war effort. Information about varieties grown then for fiber are not readily transferrable to the contemporary market for high oil, seed, cannabinoids, and specialty fiber.

WILL THERE BE INSECT PESTS OR DISEASES IN THE FLORIDA HEMP?

Probably. We do not intend to spray our trails with any type of chemical controls, unless necessary to rescue the planting. Over the trial seasons we will be assessing our hemp stands for all possible metrics of health, including for insect pests and diseases. Future studies may include control trials for issues we find in the first field season.

HOW IS IT LEGAL TO GROW SUNN HEMP?

Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is not hemp and is not even in the cannabis family. This cover crop was used in India as a source for fiber, so it has ‘hemp’ in its common name.  It is in the bean family. Sunn hemp has no cannabinoids.


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