Yesterday was a big day for hemp in Florida; farmers were finally allowed to begin making applications for hemp growing licenses in the sunshine state. Given the current state of the agricultural sector it is highly likely that hemp will become the rebound crop from the blow dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is happening to the agricultural sector?
A report that was published by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that a significant drop in the prices of corn (19%), livestock (30%), and lean hogs (45%) since the pandemic started.
Three months into the pandemic and the agricultural sector is reeling from the effects with no signs of recovery in the near future. The stock market has been on a steady downward slope and together with it has come the price of agricultural commodities. Additionally, quarantine and lockdown measures have rattled the demand for agricultural commodities such as corn, perishable vegetables, and livestock. With the closure of restaurants and other large institutions closing down, these prices may be on a steady decline for a while. Consequently, risk-averse farmers may consider turning to hemp to hedge them from severe losses.
Hemp in Florida
Florida has a humid climate that is conducive for growing hemp all year round. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production at a federal level. However, each state is free to make its own rules regarding hemp production. Because of its close association with marijuana, hemp production is closely monitored. Consequently, farmers have to be licensed to grow hemp in Florida. For hemp to be considered legal in the US it has to have less than 0.3% of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Florida legalized hemp at a state level in July 2019. Industry experts estimate that the hemp market in Florida could be worth billions of dollars if fully exploited. While tourism has been the number one income earner for the state, hemp might soon take this coveted spot. The tourism industry has almost grounded to a halt since the pandemic started. Unfortunately, this may be the last industry to recover as governments ensure vigilance in minimizing travel. Medicinal hemp in Florida, on the other hand, has been buoyed by increased demand during the period of the pandemic.
In the past, hemp farmers in Florida have needed to cultivate hemp under a pilot program. However, this changed yesterday (27th April 2020) and for the first time, hemp farmers can apply for licenses to cultivate hemp for commercial reasons privately. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have regulatory oversight for the issuance of these licenses. This comes at a perfect time when farmers in Florida are looking to clutch at any alternative straw; which happens to be hemp.
FDACS had in the past issued 50 research permits for pilot-programs affiliated to universities. They had also issued over 200 manufacturing licenses and over 7,000 retail licenses for hemp. Now farmers can apply for licenses to cultivate hemp privately in the sunshine state.
Hemp Cultivation License in Florida
Any resident of Florida can apply for a hemp cultivation license unless they have a record of conviction for a narcotics felony.
To apply for a cultivation license in Florida you will need to complete a background check using the ORI number(Originating Agency Identifier) from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement: FL925080Z. You will also be required to submit a Hemp Containment and Transportation Plan with your application. Additionally, you will be required to submit a hemp waste disposal plan.
Applications are submitted to the FDACS website, a lot of information about hemp cultivation in Florida can also be found on this website.
COVID-19 Pandemic in Florida
Florida was the third state to confirm a COVID-19 case in the US on March 1st 2020. Since then, there have been 32,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,088 deaths.
Is Hemp a Rebound Crop in Florida?
Farmers in Florida are hoping to get a buffer from hemp to cushion the losses that they have already experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hemp is a versatile crop that has a myriad of uses such as a source of fuel, fiber, hemp seed oil, housing material, paint, ink, and detergent among others. In Florida, hemp can be cultivated up to four times a year.
Unlike other sectors, the demand for medicinal hemp products has remained high during the period of the epidemic. Of all the potential uses of hemp, medicinal hemp is one of the most lucrative. This makes it an appealing substitute for farmers at this point in time.
The Agriculture Commissioner for Florida Nikki Fired has expressed concerns over the dwindling prices of agricultural commodities. So far, the agricultural sector has experienced losses exceeding $522.5 million and still counting. However, she remains optimistic that hemp can help to buffer farmers from severe losses during this period. In her words, “there’s a new greener reason for farmers to be hopeful.”
Fried and her team is eager to get the hemp program in Florida up and running. It is projected that within the first week the agency will have received over 1,500 applications.
Is a Hemp Glut on the Cards?
This cannot be ruled out, and this will not be the first time that fears of a hemp glut have been on the radar. Of course, there will be more production of hemp in Florida, nothing like has ever been witnessed in the past. On the flip side, demand is likely to keep surging as the pandemic soars on. Additionally, as more states move to legalize marijuana, hemp in Florida will be put to some good use.