45ºF

23,000 acres approved for cultivation as Florida hemp industry begins to take root

File Photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Since hemp was approved for hemp cultivation in mid-2019, 729 Florida farmers have been approved to grow the crop.

Despite challenges posed in 2020, the industry is beginning to bloom.

The Department of Agriculture’s Cannabis Director Holly Bell told Senators all but one of Florida’s 67 counties have farmers licensed to grow hemp.

About 290 acres were planted in 2020.

“We did have 44 acres destroyed,” said Bell. “There were only about two of them because the field went what we call ‘hot’ above the level of 0.3 total THC allowed.”

That’s a success rate of 85%.

Most of the unsuccessful crops were the result of inexperienced growers and Florida’s unique climate, but universities like FAMU are actively conducting research to identify strains that grow best in the Sunshine State.

Funding for those research programs is slated to expire in September.

Lawmakers like Senate Agriculture Chair Darryl Rouson believe their continuation is vital.

“We need to do more. Hemp is an important product and an important part of the economy now,” said Rouson.

In its first year, the state’s hemp industry already includes more than 7,000 retailers, 280 manufactures, more than 200 warehouses, 38 distributors and 15 processors.

And with a total of 23,000 acres approved for cultivation statewide, Bell predicts the industry will continue to grow as much as 25% each year.

“We’ve had success even during COVID and the industry appears to be growing rapidly,” said Bell.

Initial estimates put 2020 hemp tax revenue in the millions.

Supporters of Florida hemp like Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried have suggested the industry has the potential to eventually become a $20 to $30 billion industry.