‘Florida Farmers Are Going to Be the Best Hemp Growers in the Country’

Ernie NeffAlternative Crops

Holly Bell

“Florida farmers will eventually overtake the rest of the country” in hemp production, predicts Holly Bell, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) director of cannabis. In an interview with Citrus Industry Editor Tacy Callies, Bell summarizes her talk at the general session of Citrus Expo.

Bell says “Florida farmers are going to be the best hemp growers in the country” because they have the skills needed to grow the crop. Those skills differ from the skills many other U.S. farmers possess, she says. “We do need to get the genetics and the seed geared for Florida; that’s going to come in the next year or two,” Bell says.

Requirements for growing hemp in Florida include giving FDACS permission to visit the hemp-producing property and inspect the crop, Bell says. Growers will pay a less-than-$50 fee and submit to a background check and fingerprinting. Growers will have to notify FDACS 30 days prior to harvest “so that we can come out and witness you sampling the crop,” she says. The growers will send the samples to an approved laboratory to ensure its THC content is .3 percent or less, meaning it is non-psychoactive. Growers cannot have been convicted of a narcotics-related felony within the past 10 years, she says.

Bell says hemp doesn’t like sitting in wet soil. “It has to be well-drained soil,” she says. She adds that it needs 12 hours of light per day. “It also doesn’t like extreme temperature changes,” she adds.

Growers considering the new Florida crop should go to a state where hemp is already being produced “and visit some farms that are growing it,” Bell suggests. “Get a visual; get a hands-on; talk to a farmer.” She also suggests visiting the FDACS website where much information about the crop is provided.

Bell says she expects to have hemp rules completed this summer. “And hopefully by late fall I’ll have a good set of rules that we can adopt and then officially start our program,” she says. “And that means I can accept applications at that time.”

Hear more from Bell:

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large