JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–While this may be a time of uncertainty for farmers in Florida, there is now a new alternative crop to explore: hemp. Beginning Monday, residents can apply for licenses to grow the crop for the first time.
While this may come as good news to farmers struggling to rebound from Hurricane Michael, some in the agricultural industry say there is still a lot to be learned about hemp in Northwest Florida.
“Today is a historic day because it is now legal to apply for a permit to grow hemp in Florida,” said Doug Mayo, the Jackson County Extension Office Director for UF/IFAS.
This approval comes less than two weeks after the USDA approved the state’s hemp program. But those in the agricultural industry say this is only the beginning.
“This is a new venture and every time we try something new there’s always a risk,” said Mayo.
Mayo says this won’t be an overnight economic win, there’s a lot to be learned before the state can reap the benefits.
“We don’t know how much fertilizer to use, we don’t know what the perfect planting date is for our area,” said Mayo.
For farmers to cultivate hemp successfully, Mayo says there needs to be hemp processors in the area.
“You have got to have a source. You can’t haul raw product very far and be profitable so you have to have a local buying point for these products,” said Mayo.
Jackson County Commissioner, Jim Peacock, says the county is exploring their options. Peacock has been instrumental in pushing for bringing processors to the area.
“We have interviewed 3 processors that have expressed an interest in coming to Jackson County,” said Peacock.
As for how long until areas like Jackson County experience the economic benefits, Peacock says there could be some time.
“Two years. I would think next year there’s a very good possibility there will be some planted in the county,” said Peacock.
After planting, Peacock believes it will take an additional year to learn just how viable the crop is for local farmers.
To apply for a license to cultivate hemp through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit https://hemp.fdacs.gov/landing.