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UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project

UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project

Note: These answers are current as of 7 July 2020.

For updates, please subscribe to our newsletter. For questions and comments, email hemp@ifas.ufl.edu.

Hemp is undergoing a nationwide evolution, and it may seem that there are more questions than clear answers. The following list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) attempts to provide the most accurate answers currently available from the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.


Quick Find

Hemp in Florida

General Hemp Questions

UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Program

Other Important Clarifications

Definitions


Hemp in Florida

Is Hemp Legal to Grow on Private Farms in Florida?

Yes, a 2019 Florida law authorized hemp commercialization regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The state hemp program was initiated in 2020, including the release of cultivation licenses. The application for a hemp cultivation license can be found at https://hemp.fdacs.gov/landing. This FDACS Frequently Asked Questions page includes helpful information on the hemp cultivation program: https://www.fdacs.gov/content/download/91830/file/hemp-cultivation-application-faq.pdf.

potted industrial hemp plant

Close-up view of the leaves of container grown industrial hemp plants in a greenhouse | UF/IFAS photo

Is CBD Legal in Florida?

CBD products began being regulated in the state by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) on July 1, 2019 and are required to meet strict guidelines for content as per state law and recently released FDACS rules. More information about CBD can be found on the FDACS website.

Since When Could Private Citizens or Businesses Grow Hemp in Florida?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hemp Program was initiated in a response to the 2018 Farm Bill and released their Interim Final Rule for Domestic Hemp Production on October 31, 2019. Hemp remains a regulated agricultural industry at both the national and state levels through each state’s Department of Agriculture. The State of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) completed their rules and regulations to allow for the commercial cultivation of hemp in 2020. Information about grower permits and other valuable information can be found here.

How Do I Get a Hemp Cultivation Permit?

You can apply for a hemp cultivation permit with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) at the State of Florida Hemp Program website: https://www.fdacs.gov/Cannabis-Hemp/Hemp-CBD-in-Florida. Follow the Hemp Program 2020 Applicant Checklist just to make sure that you are applying for your permit properly.


General Hemp Questions

How is Hemp Different from Marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are the same plant species: Cannabis sativa. They are legally distinguished based on their total delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Total THC includes delta-9-THC and the precursor THCa, the psychoactive compounds associated with ‘getting high.’

Hemp is Cannabis sativa with a total THC content that does not exceed 0.3 percent by dry weight, while marijuana is Cannabis sativa with a total THC (THC + THCa) content greater than 0.3 percent by dry weight, while marijuana is Cannabis sativa with a total THC content greater than 0.3 percent. The 0.3 percent total THC threshold is defined by state and federal laws.

Hemp is used for fiber, seed, oil, non-THC cannabinoids, and various other derivatives. Some hemp varieties can be high in cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids. Hemp and marijuana may also be called Cannabis indica or Cannabis ruderalis, which are biologically-synonymous terms for Cannabis sativa. More accurately, indica and ruderalis denote subspecies.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol. CBD is a one of over 100 cannabinoid compounds found in Cannabis plants. Some hemp and marijuana have a high concentration of CBD. CBD has growing evidence of medical use

What Did the 2018 Farm Bill Change for Hemp?

Although many news articles reacting to the Farm Bill proclaim: “Hemp is Now Legal,” the bill does not say everyone is free to start growing/selling/possessing hemp.

Instead, hemp is still going to be regulated. USDA has responded to the 2018 Farm Bill by publishing their interim final rule for domestic hemp production last fall.  Each state will operate under the laws and regulations put in place by the 2018 Farm Bill process or the remaining laws and regulations from the 2014 Farm Bill process. Industrial hemp planting permits (“Pilot Project” programs) as per the 2014 Farm Bill are still limited to land grant and certain other institutions in the State of Florida.

The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity. It also re-classifies hemp with regard to the Controlled Substances Act administered by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This change will now offer hemp growers access to financing and crop insurance and removes trade barriers across state lines. The 2018 Farm Bill also describes regulation of hemp production at the state level. The department of agriculture for any state interested in allowing the cultivation of hemp may submit their plan to the USDA once approval is obtained from the state’s legislature. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has drafted a state hemp plan in response to the 2018 Farm Bill and approval is pending.


UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

Can Private Landowners Donate Land for the UF/IFAS Hemp Trials?

Not at this time - the majority of UF/IFAS hemp research is being conducted on university land and facilities. UF/IFAS has chosen several of their research and education centers in diverse locations across the state for this important work. As of 2020, there are also partner farms working with hemp on private land in association with the UF/IFAS hemp coordinated on-farm trial and industry partnerships.

close of view of an industrial hemp plant in the field

Detailed view of industrial hemp growing in the field at a UF/IFAS research location | UF/IFAS photo

Does UF/IFAS Profit from Growing Hemp?

No - the vast majority of all research materials are destroyed after completion of UF/IFAS trials. The UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project is seeking to partner with industry for quality testing and product development, however much of these products will also be destroyed. The overall goal of the UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project is to generate and disseminate research-based information openly for the benefit of all stakeholders in Florida.

Why is UF/IFAS Researching Industrial Hemp?

The UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project is working to identify varieties and production recommendations that can be profitable for growers and also environmentally responsible. Florida's subtropical climate and markets are very different from other places currently growing and selling hemp. Although most hemp seed and plant materials on the market are adapted to those other places, UF/IFAS has started with varietal and cultivar trials to find existing hemp genetics that will grow well in Florida’s diverse soils, climates, and latitudes.

Economic research is being conducted to better define current input costs for growing hemp, expectations of hemp’s market value, and possible breakeven points for grain, fiber, dual purpose, and cannabidiol (CBD) hemp. Additionally, UF/IFAS is mandated to conduct studies to better understand risk of hemp invasiveness or escape from cultivation. The UF/IFAS research plan is further described throughout the site. The UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project planted its first field-level study back in May 2019.

Will the Invasive Risk Study Affect Hemp Production?

Invasions of non-native plant species are a significant ecological and economic problem in Florida. Invasive plants affect biodiversity and ecosystem function. Each year, the state spends millions on invasive plant management.

To reduce the threat of non-native plant invasions, the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas conducts risk assessment of non-native plant species new to the state of Florida, or proposed for new uses. Data for the risk assessments come from published information related to the biology and ecology of individual species.

Hemp scores in the 'high invasion risk' category because of what’s known about its ability in other states and countries to escape and colonize natural areas outside of cultivation. 

2017 Florida state statute directed the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project to better understand how hemp grows and might persist in the unique climate of Florida with limited and strictly monitored plantings. Our Pilot Project has not delayed the licensing of commercial hemp production in Florida, but invasion risk is a concern that must be addressed. License applications for hemp cultivation include an environmental containment plan as a first step to mitigate the risk of hemp escape from cultivation and transportation. Ongoing invasive studies at UF/IFAS continue to address the hugely impactful problem of plant invasions in the state. Such work will further assess the potential invasion of hemp into natural areas and inform best management practices for hemp cultivation and seed transportation to reduce invasion risk.

Will Research Be Expanded with Additional Funding?

Yes – the UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project is working to sustain existing research and education programs and expand our efforts. The UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project is seeking donors and formal industry partners that will engage with research and financially support such efforts. Additional funding will help continue research established during the pilot project period and expand the program to new areas such as breeding, plant propagation, indoor production, and management practices for environmental protection. This work will continue to support the development of the Florida hemp industry.

How Many Acres Will Be Grown During the Two-Year Pilot Project?

In 2019, acreage  was limited to mostly intensive research sites. Those research sites were 1-2 acres each with informative hemp studies involving different varieties and production systems on replicated smaller scale plots.  In 2020, the UF/IFAS hemp program operates 42 site permits from labs of a couple hundred square feet, greenhouses of several thousand square feet, and outdoor fields of 2 - 45 acres. These locations now include UF properties (14 permits) and partners of the UF/IFAS hemp program (28 permits). The diversity of locations enables us to explore hemp cultivation across Florida’s many environments and expand our research activities across multiple disciplines.

Will UF/IFAS Be Approving or Certifying Hemp Cultivars in 2020?

UF/IFAS administrative leadership has approved a fee-based pilot project-approval process for hemp plant propagator businesses in Florida and across the country that approve hemp genetics as propagules according to the FDACS guidelines. Approval of hemp cultivars as seeds is not a part of the current UF/IFAS approval program. This UF/IFAS Pilot Project Approval offering may provide hemp growers in Florida more science based and credible hemp cultivar options through approved propagules, especially for the CBD/cannabinoid production sector. Genetics entered into the UF/IFAS hemp research program can provide information critical to evaluate the genetics in Florida that can also contribute to the approval or certification process.

Is UF/IFAS Qualifying Pilot Project Partners in 2020?

In December 2019, IFAS leadership secured approval from the Board of Trustees at the University of Florida to begin to engage directly with growers and industry in Florida through the formal qualified project partner (QPP) process - this partnership opportunity is outlined in state statute and FDACS rules and has allowed for an expansion of research efforts and also enhance project sustainability. There are key differences between QPPs for on-farm trial efforts and more formal industry QPP agreements.  

Industry QPPs with UF/IFAS differ substantially from farm-level hemp trial efforts as they involve discussions leading to mutually agreed upon proposals that satisfy the following:

  • ​Common Goals - A potential industry QPP needs to propose research and educational goals that align well with UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project objectives.  This includes varietal adaptability, production systems, pest control, in addition to student and other support.  A key factor with these goals is that such research needs to be open science with UF/IFAS hemp team faculty having the ability to publish results.
  • ​Support for UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project - Industry interested in partnering with UF/IFAS need to present a support plan that will assist with the funding of needed research by our hemp scientists.  Such funding is key to not only maintaining current pilot project research efforts, but also to expand hemp knowledge for the benefit of all growers and industry in Florida.

Any industry with a place of business in the State of Florida interested in formally partnering with the UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project can email the team at hemp@ifas.ufl.edu.


Other Important Clarifications

potted industrial hemp plant

Close-up view to show detail of the leaves of industrial hemp plants grown in a greenhouse | UF/IFAS video still

Will There Be Insects or Diseases in the Hemp?

Definitely - UF/IFAS has observed a number of pest species affecting early studies, both in the field and in controlled growth environments (e.g. greenhouse and growth rooms). UF/IFAS will continue to assess hemp stands for health, including for insect pests and diseases and is presently looking at certain control measures. Certain UF/IFAS Hemp Pilot Project faculty are also involved in multi-state research efforts with other universities that could facilitate registration of crop protection products for hemp.

Is this the Same Hemp Grown Before World War Two?

The hemp market up to the 1940s was oriented around an exceptional demand for fiber to supply the United States and allies with cordage and durable canvases. Information about varieties grown then for fiber in that economy are not readily transferrable to the contemporary market for oil, seed, cannabinoids, and specialty fiber today. 

From those historical records, there is only evidence of a single research program for cultivation of hemp in Florida during that time. In fact, a bulletin of that research program in the Everglades region suggests that no hemp had ever been cultivated in Florida for commercial purposes. UF/IFAS has yet to find a reference to commercial or production scale planting of hemp in Florida.

How is it Legal to Grow Sunn Hemp Without a Permit?

Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is not actually hemp or even related unrelated to Cannabis. This cover crop was used in India as a source for fiber, so it has 'hemp' in its common name. It is in the legume family with alfalfa. Sunn hemp has no cannabinoids. 


Definitions of Common Hemp Terminology

Autoflowering
When a plant flowers as it reaches a certain size or age instead of being daylength sensitive - also, day neutral or daylight independent. Some hemp are autoflowering.

Bast
The long, high-quality fiber that run lengthwise on the exterior of a hemp stem

industrial hemp plants in greenhouse

Industrial hemp plants grown in a controlled greenhouse environment | UF/IFAS video still

Cannabinoids
A class of more than 100 naturally-occurring secondary metabolites found in Cannabis (and some other plants) synthesized from the same Olivetolic acid and GPP. Some cannabinoids, such as THC, are associated with psychotropic and medicinal effects.

Cannabis
Botanically, Cannabis is a genus. Although there are multiple distinct genetic backgrounds of Cannabis (sativaindicaruderalis, and similar), most botanists classify those backgrounds into the same species: Cannabis sativa L. Conversationally, 'cannabis' is an accurate common name for marijuana and hemp, just as corn (Zea mays) refers to sweetcorn, popcorn, and field corn.

CBD 
Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that has some medical purposes. Some hemp and marijuana have a high concentration of CBD.

Decorticate
The process of stripping bast fiber from stems

Dioecious 
When individuals in a plant population are strictly male or female, that is each plant has only pollen producing flowers or seed producing flowers. Most populations of cannabis are dioecious.

Hemp seed oil 
The vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of a hemp plant. This is distinguished from hemp essential oil (or CBD) oil that is extracted from flowers.

Hermaphrodite
Having both male and female reproductive organs in the same flower. Hermaphrodite flowers can produce both pollen and seed. Most plant species have only hermaphrodite flowers. Hermaphrodite flowers occasionally can be found on otherwise female cannabis.

industrial hemp plants in greenhouse

Industrial hemp plants grown in a controlled greenhouse environment | UF/IFAS video still

Hurd 
The woody, central pith section of hemp stem used in Hempcrete, animal bedding, and other alternatives to wood pulp

Indica
Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa var. indica refers to a genetic background of cannabis that had been crossed into marijuana.

Monoecious
When individual plants have separate male and female unisexual flowers in the same plant. These plants still have unisexual flowers, but of both sexes separately in the same individual plant. For example, corn tassels are male and corn ears are female. Some hemp varieties are monoecious.

Photoperiod 
The hours of sunlight in a day required for the plant to grow in leafy, vegetative phase (not flowering). After seasonal day-lengths change from the required photoperiod, the plants will flower. Plants have photoperiodic flowering to stop them from flowering before they are ready. Most hemp varieties require more than 14 hours of light per day. They then flower after summer when the days get shorter.

Ruderalis 
Cannabis ruderalis or Cannabis sativa var. ruderalis refers to a low THC genetic background of cannabis that is attributed to autoflowering and dwarfing. 

Sativa 
Cannabis sativa or Cannabis sativa var. sativa refers to a genetic background of cannabis that is most associated with hemp and marijuana.

THC 
Tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid most associated with the psychotropic 'high' effect of marijuana.