Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the state of Florida. Not only were lives and homes destroyed, but also Florida’s most profitable crop: oranges. The hit to the famous Florida oranges couldn’t have come at a worse time as orange trees in Florida have been battling “citrus greening”, a bacterial infection that causes fruit to be too small for juicing or selling.
It will be interesting to see if Florida’s orange crops will be able to rebound after so much loss or if there is a new crop in town looking to take the top spot in Florida’s agriculture. Florida recently passed the “Industrial Hemp Pilot Projects” bill. The bill allows the legalization of 2 top state universities to “cultivate, process, test, research, create, and market safe and effective commercial applications for industrial hemp in the agricultural sector in this state.”
The intent of the bill is to allow universities to study how Florida’s climate affects the growth and harvesting of hemp, as well as the effects the state’s climate has on the finished hemp product and what, if any, market use there is for byproducts of the crop. A main concern facing the researchers will be how hemp crops may potentially affect Florida’s eco system. The USDA lists the plant as invasive which means: “A plant that is both non-native and able to establish on many sites, grow quickly, and spread to the point of disrupting plant communities or ecosystems.”
While research is just under way in Florida, many already claim that hemp cultivation could be a win-win for both the economy and the environment. Not only is the hemp plant easy to grow and extremely hardy, but hemp oil and seed is still widely used in raw materials by several industries. Unfortunately, those industries, which include businesses like The Ford Motor Company, currently must import hemp products from Canada because growing the self-sustaining crop in the U.S. is illegal.
Like the rest of the nation, we will be eagerly waiting to hear what the Florida universities research finds.