Post hurricane, hemp could Florida's newest cash crop

Farmers look to alternative crops after devastation of Hurricane Michael

By Mark Collins - Meteorologist
Georgia Department of Agriculture

Georgia's cotton farmers say Hurricane Michael stole their crop of a lifetime and could put them out of business for good.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Agricultural problems in the wake of Hurricane Michael may actually change the landscape in the types of crops being grown in Florida.

Headlines focused on the devastation of structures and loss of life, but heavy winds also damaged hay rolls that were stockpiled for the winter cattle overgrazing. 

Many livestock producers in northern Florida had supplies cut due to losses from the hurricane wind and rain.  Humidity and nearly daily rain showers washed away fertilizer applications resulting in a costly expense.

The timber industry had huge losses and some don’t have the money it takes to replant damaged land.

Florida's farmers are embracing a new course after the deadly storm.

There is potential for alternative crops that can be harvested outside the wet summer and peak hurricane season that could hedge risk for traditional cattle and cotton farming.

The unpredictable weather has left growers moving away from traditional farming towards less risky alternatives like hemp and hops.

Hemp is a very tough fiber more resilient to storms, drought and heat, along with being a high cash crop for farmers.

Chemists are even working on engineering varieties that may serve as biodegradable alternatives to plastic.

Dr Glen Aiken, director of the University of Florida’s North Florida research and education center said a focus on different crops is necessary “to make improvements that will maybe reduce the risk they (farmers) suffer from hurricanes.”

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