Frequently Asked Questions
Essential Facts and Tips on Cultivation of Industrial Hemp in Florida
Any person who does not have a criminal record, passes a background check, and possesses a Hemp Cultivation License from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
The following permits are needed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS):
- Cultivation Permit: commercial cultivation of industrial hemp.
- Marketing Permit: marketing the biomass, plants, and any products from hemp.
- Processing/Food Permit: processing, extraction, formulation and sale of food containing hemp products.
- Nursery Permit: propagation and marketing of clones (propagules/liners).
- Seed Dealer Permit: marketing hemp seeds.
A major source of information can be obtained from: www.FDACS.gov/hemp.
Yes. The grower must first register with FDACS and obtain a seed dealer license to sell hemp seeds.
Sample essential factors to consider:
- Collect as much information as possible about industrial hemp and talk to someone who has been or is a hemp grower. Get all of your questions answered.
- Do a soil analysis of the proposed area to make sure that it is suitable and not contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and or other toxins. This is important if the crop is for CBD production.
- Make sure there is available water at the site for irrigation. Also, do a water analysis to be sure that it is not contaminated.
- Make sure there are storage facilities on site for proper drying and storage of the biomass after harvest.
- Make sure that the seeds and propagules are available and are from an approved and reliable source.
- Most important, make sure that there is a market for the hemp at harvest or shortly thereafter. It may be business-wise to have a contractual arrangement for the first few years.
- Develop a business plan and a budget to know your financial requirements and expectations. Obtain professional help if necessary.
FDACS recommends the following steps for any person who wants to get a license:
- Familiarize yourself with the cultivation rules and guidelines as defined in Hemp Cultivation Rule 5B-57.014.
- Create an account with the Hemp Cultivation Application on line portal at www.FDACS.gov/hemp.
- Complete application form on line and provide all necessary information as requested.
- FDACS will only process applications that are fully completed with all the required information. Applicants will be notified by email or phone if there are issues.
- There is an application checklist on the FDACS website that will guide you to complete the application form.
- Successful applicants will be notified by FDAC and if any additional information is needed in the application.
- Additional information may be obtained from www.FDACS.gov/hemp.
It has been reported that industrial hemp has more than 35,000 uses, ranging from food products, medicinal, nutraceutical to industrial uses. One of the most commonly cited economic attributes of industrial hemp are the more than 100 cannabinoids found in the plants, one of which is cannabidiol or more commonly referred to as CBD. There are also strains of industrial hemp that are grown for high quality fiber, hemp seed oil and edible food.
CBD is prized for its high potency and wide ranging medicinal, pharmacological, and nutraceutical applications (unproven). If it is not grown for fiber or seed oil, the market price that a farmer gets for his industrial hemp crop is often determined by the level of CBD it contains (% CBD dry weight of biomass) and that all other compounds (heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, and microbials) are within acceptable limits as determined by a certificate of analysis (COA) from an approved lab.
Florida A&M University, with its industrial partners, are currently evaluating several strains of industrial hemp that have performed well in states such as Kentucky, Colorado and California to determine if they will perform well under Florida’s conditions. We are looking at promising strains that will be hemp compliant with a THC < 0.3%, and relatively high CBD content at maturity. The plants should also show resistance to major pests and diseases, and high germination and feminization rates.
A farmer may only use hemp seeds and cultivars that are certified by a certifying agency such as AOSCA (Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies) or a university conducting an industrial hemp pilot project (s.1004.4473, F.S.).
A grower cannot use his own seeds or clones to replant his field.
There are three broad categories of industrial hemp:
- Feminized plants: These are female hemp plants that have been bred to produce only female flowers. They often take about 110 days from planting to maturity and are affected by day length (photoperiod).
- Auto-flower plants: These are feminized plants that have been bred to flower within 10 weeks from planting to maturity and are not affected by day length.
- Regular plants: These are plants that are not selected and they can be either male or female plants – dioecious or have both male and female flowers on the same plant – monoecious. A farmer should not use regular seeds if he is growing hemp for CBD.
- The hemp plants grow best on loamy soil that is not water-logged after a heavy shower.
- The hemp plants grow best with irrigation and not dependent on rain.
- Growers should consider growing hemp on raised beds with plastic covers for weed control.
- The hemp plants, except for the auto-flower strains, are photo sensitive and timing is essential. As daylength increases, the plants will continue to grow. An extended growth period will often lead to an increase in CBD and the THC concentration at harvest, the latter may exceed the legal limit.
- Hemp plants are susceptible to pests and diseases. Pest and disease management will be a challenge for many growers as many pesticides are not permissible.
- The hemp plants have the ability to overtake the heavy metals and other compounds found in the soil.
- The hemp site should not be near a medical marijuana operation to avoid pollen-drift contamination.
Other than good husbandry practices to produce the best crop, the grower is legally bound to ensure that the crop at harvest has a total THC less than 0.3% (hemp compliance). Protocols that must be followed include but are not limited to below:
- At least 15 days before harvest, the grower must collect representative samples (flowers) to be sent for testing/analysis at an FDACS-approved lab.
- The sampling procedure recommended by FDACS must be followed and samples submitted for analysis on the same day of sampling.
- Results of the analysis (Certificate of Analysis) must be sent by the lab directly to Department of Plant Industry, FDACS. Approval must be obtained before the crop could be harvested.
- If the sample submitted for analysis is non-compliant (THC>0.3%), the grower may request the lab to retest from the same sample.
- If the 2nd test fails, a 3rd sampling will be done by FDACS and if that fails, the crop may have to be destroyed as prescribed in the Hemp Waste Disposal Manual.
- The grower must maintain records of seed sources, quantity purchased, and strains of industrial hemp cultivated on the farm for at least 3 years.
- The grower has to report his/her hemp acreage to the USDA Farm Service Agency.