Florida projects hemp acreage will grow to half the size of citrus acreage

Florida’s agriculture chief predicts that hemp acreage in the Sunshine State will grow to about half the size of the state’s famed citrus acreage within three to five years.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Tuesday that the state’s 22,078 acres of hemp this year will balloon to 300,000 by 2025, about half the size of the state’s citrus acreage. Already Florida’s hemp acreage is nearly equal to the acreage in Florida of tomatoes, watermelon and snap peas, and double the strawberry production, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

“Imagine all the citrus industry here in the state of Florida, about 700,000 acres, and so we’re going to be getting close to half of that,” Fried told the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors in a call Tuesday.

Fried’s optimism comes after a bumpy first growing year for Florida hemp producers. About 14% of the hemp acreage Florida cultivated this year had to be destroyed.

Fried estimated that Florida’s current hemp acreage would produce $270 million in economic impact, $136 million in revenue and support more than 8,000 jobs.

And she said the forecast is for those numbers to double as the acreage of hemp is expected to reach 35,000 by next April.

Fried pointed out that agriculture remains one of Florida’s biggest economic drivers as tourism is down 34% this year.