Florida's USDA Hemp Program Kicks Off

Ready Set Grow!

After Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, the excitement built in the farming community as to when they could start. One major block to beginning to grow hemp commercially was the rules that needed to come from the USDA, or to have the rules created by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The first draft of the rules was presented to the public in October of 2018. Soon after publishing that draft, the FDACS had a three-city tour where the public could ask questions of the FDACS department leads and counsels.

Hundreds arrived to ask questions, offer comments, and make recommendations. They came in suits and overalls, carrying copies of the draft rules and notes on iPad, note cards and scraps of paper to be a part of the process.

The rules covered a myriad of topics, including cultivation practices, rules for including CBD into food, dairy and animal feed. FDACS also outlined hemp transportation rules ( which did not need USDA clearance) and included a requirement that hemp shippers stop at a state agriculture inspection station and show:

  • a certificate of analysis on the material’s total THC content.
  • a bill of sale including the place of origin; and
  • a phytosanitary certificate for live plant material.

Then, after 60 more days of public comment in writing, the crew at FDACS went to work incorporating the comments and concerns into the next draft of the rules.

A year later, in October of 2019, the final draft was published and, once again, the leads of the FDACS went back across the state to present their work product before the farmers and entrepreneurs eager to start growing. Then the clock started again for written public comment before the rules were ready to submit to the USDA.

On Oct. 31, 2019, USDA issued an interim final rule establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and the provisions for USDA to approve submitted plans.

With so many working parts to the new program, the FDACS was kept busy in the interim. According to Holly Bell, the Director of Cannabis Programs, the department had issued 50 pilot-program research permits, given out eight processor permits and cleared over 200 manufacturers and distributors to make hemp products in the state. Around 7,000 retail establishments now sell the products.

She also noted that, in January, edible CBD products were incorporated into the existing food safety program, as were permits for processing, testing, manufacturing, and selling CBD made from hemp brought in from states like Colorado.

After months of communications with the federal agency and tweaking the rules according to their specification, the rules were submitted to the USDA on April 8. At the same time, the clock started for 20 days to pass before applications would become active. The applications had already been available online, but now, if the USDA approved the rules, they could finally be submitted. After all the time and effort expended to get to this point, The suspense was intense.

ACS Laboratory is the largest ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited, DEA registered, CLIA certified hemp/CBD and cannabis testing facility in the Eastern United States. It is a clinical-grade operation that has been continuously refining testing methods for 10+ years. The team at ACS Laboratory is committed to elevating the hemp and cannabis industry by providing a reliable, consistent source of testing.

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