New laws welcome back an old crop
After a long period of prohibition, thanks to recent legislation, it is now legal again to grow industrial hemp in the state of Florida. A new Ask IFAS publication examines the possibility that industrial hemp could once again be a thriving cash crop in Florida. In fact, stakeholders and scientists are looking at the crop as a possible suitable alternative to traditional crops that are both vulnerable to disease and becoming less lucrative to grow in the face of stiff competition from other countries.
Hemp has many possible uses
Hemp can be turned into many different products. It supplies food for people and animals–the oil in hemp seeds is popular among consumers looking for oil high in heart-healthy omega-6 fatty acid. The oil can also be used in cosmetics or for industrial uses like solvents or fuel. Hemp fiber is not just for rope. It can be used to make clothes, paper, and even concrete. And hemp is of course famous for its purported medicinal properties.
Regulations across the United States vary widely, which makes it difficult to market hemp and hemp products. Florida’s low regulated threshold of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychotropic chemical in hemp, presents a potential problem if varieties grown exceed the limit. Further, not all varieties of hemp will thrive in Florida’s climate. It can be difficult for growers to find investors willing to take a chance on hemp after the many years of prohibition and given the patchwork of regulations affecting its marketability. And the supply chain is not yet established, so it can be difficult to find buyers.
Despite the challenges, several other US states began in 2014 to create hemp industries. Florida has started later but could benefit from the progress already made in other areas of the country. Solving the problem of differing regulations and developing cultivars and best management practices especially for Florida could result in a successful alternative crop for Florida growers.
Consult Ask IFAS for more on industrial hemp.