With Panhandle Timber Down, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried Thinks Hemp Will Come Up Big

Oct 10, 2019

Downed trees are seen from the air in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael near Mexico Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
Credit Gerald Herbert / AP Photo

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says hemp farming in the Panhandle could bring relief from the billion and a half dollar hit to the region’s timber industry. She joined WFSU’s special Perspectives program this week, broadcast from Mexico Beach, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael that left millions of acres damaged.

Fried says hemp’s short growth cycle can help it inject money into the area while timber, with a cycle that can be as long as twenty years, catches up.  

“While we are encouraging everybody to reforest – because that is the industry, that is the livelihood of this community, that’s where the jobs were, so we are encouraging everybody to reforest – but in the meanwhile, giving them alternatives like hemp are going to be essential to rebuilding,” Fried said Thursday.

Timber farmers in the region have yet to see meaningful federal aid. Fried says she and other state officials have presented a grant program that would help timber farmers, to the United Stated Department of Agriculture. She says she hopes to hear back in a matter of weeks.

In May, state cannabis director Holly Bell told a Tallahassee audience North Florida would be an attractive place for perspective hemp farmers to grow.

“I do believe it’s probably because you’re going to have a better grow soil up here initially, for the CBD-type hemp, because you’ve grown tobacco up here,” Bell said.

Bell says hemp growing permits look to be on a track to be issued in January of 2020.