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How to Grow Your Florida Hemp Business

The prospect of a new and lucrative business opportunity is exciting, and Florida has new opportunities in the industrial hemp market. Hemp cultivation opens the door for more jobs and business ventures in Florida, but a successful hemp business requires thorough preparation and strategizing to reap proper gains. If you want a piece of the pie in this emerging market, you must understand how to start a hemp business.  Why Hemp? Civilizations have used hemp for centuries in many practical ways. Hemp came to North America in the 1600s and has had a complicated legal identity in the United States. With changing laws surrounding hemp production, the industrial hemp market currently has a robust presence in the U.S. economy. Industrial hemp has many wonderful uses you can monetize in a new agribusiness. Industrial hemp plant uses include: Clothing Shoes Rope Nets Carpet Tarps Paper Building materials Mulch Composting Animal bedding Soap Beauty products Moisturizer Hemp-related business has a large market share in the United States. In 2016, the sales value of hemp-based products was over $688 million.  With so many uses for industrial hemp, you can carve out many places for your hemp business to thrive.    Is It Legal to Grow Hemp in Florida? Yes, it is legal to grow hemp in Florida. The United States recently passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which authorized hemp production and removed hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule of Controlled substances. Florida followed the federal lead and authorized hemp cultivation in 2019. A cannabis plant or product is not legal hemp unless it is Cannabis sativa L. and has a total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration that does not exceed 0.3% on a dry-weight basis.  Growing hemp and selling hemp-based products may be legal, but Florida hemp laws heavily regulate cultivation and sale. You must know the Florida hemp laws and have the proper equipment and capital to legally run a thriving hemp business.  How Do I Get Funding for My Hemp Business? As with any agricultural business, you need land, seeds, equipment, water, transportation, funds for crop testing, funds for licensing, and probably employees. You must determine if you can afford these business necessities before venturing into the industrial hemp business. If you are not independently wealthy, coming by funding can be hard.  United States banks are hesitant to provide any kind of banking services to hemp-based businesses. If a bank is willing to provide a bank account for a hemp-based business, it might still be hesitant to provide hemp-based loans. Without the financial backing of a bank, you may have to determine what you can sell to build your own capital, or you might have to seek independent investors to help you start your business. Once you have funding for your business, you must fulfill a number of legal requirements to start your business. What Are the Legal Requirements for a Hemp Business? There are many legal requirements to start and run an industrial hemp business. You need to keep up with licensing, permits, and multiple monitoring rules to keep your business viable. How to Get a Hemp Growing License One of the most important legal requirements for starting a hemp business is a hemp cultivation license. To qualify for a license, you cannot have a felony conviction that is less than 10 years old and is related to a controlled substance. You must also fulfill many licensing obligations, including: Providing fingerprints; Clearing a background check; Providing legal land description and global positioning coordinates of the farmland; and Developing a hemp containment and transportation plan. If you plan to sell packaged foods containing hemp extract or cannabidiol (CBD), you have additional permit requirements you must follow. You must also follow federal laws regarding CBD in foods.  Licensing is only the first step to growing hemp in Florida. There are many rules and regulations you must observe after you earn the proper licenses and permits. Your compliance with multiple laws can mean the difference between success and failure in the hemp industry.  What to Do After You Apply for Your License After you apply for a license, you will likely need to enroll in a Best Management Practices program to establish a presumption of compliance with Florida water quality standards. These practices seek to find balance between improving Florida water quality and maintaining agricultural productivity. Also, any hemp seeds you use must be certified by an agent of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies or by universities conducting certain hemp pilot projects.   You must stay vigilant after you receive your license. You have to renew your hemp license annually, and you must regularly test the THC level of your crops to avoid growing crops that exceed the 0.3% THC threshold for hemp. Plants that exceed the THC threshold “run hot,” and Florida law requires you to destroy them.  The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducts random annual inspections of hemp licensees. If an inspection finds a violation and you violate a corrective action plan more than two times in five years, you are ineligible to cultivate hemp for five years. There are many ways to easily lose financial ground in the industrial hemp business, so it is crucial that you stay on top of all applicable laws and regulations. How Do I Protect Myself in the Industrial Hemp Business? Following all the rules and regulations is the most important measure to protect yourself in the hemp business. There are also other business measures you can employ for protection. Consider Forming a Limited Liability Company or Corporation With any business venture comes the possibility of a lawsuit or debt collection. If you do not want a lawsuit based on the actions of your hemp business to affect you personally, forming a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation for your hemp business can protect you from personal suits or collections. LLCs and corporations have many state filing requirements, but the extra paperwork could save you from personal liability if your […]

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Florida Cottage Laws: Food Sales That Don’t Need a Permit

If you have found your niche in creating or baking something delicious, and people are telling you they would gladly pay for what you do, you may be considering creating your own small business.  With most food products, you must obtain proper licensing and permits to sell your goods. But Florida cottage laws offer a way to work around those requirements. It is important to know the basics about food operators that do not need permits in Florida.  What Are Cottage Foods? Cottage foods are a select group of homemade foods legally sellable directly to informed consumers. They do not require licensing or inspection from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). These foods are generally at a lower risk for causing foodborne illnesses.  How to Start a Cottage Foods Business in Florida The first step to take when determining how to start a cottage food business in Florida is to understand what products you may actually sell without a license. There are a number of lists available to identify food operators that do not need permits in Florida. If your passion for producing a certain product falls within those available categories, you are on the right track. Understanding Florida cottage laws will help you formulate a reasonable business plan and expectations for growth.  Food Operators That Do Not Need Permits in Florida There are a handful of foods and food products that make the list to be produced and sold within the state of Florida. One of the biggest factors in deciding what can and can’t be sold is whether the items need to be temperature controlled. Permissible products include items such as: Loaf of bread, rolls, and biscuits; Cakes, pastries, and cookies; Candies and confections; Personally produced honey; Jams, jellies, and preserves; Fruit pies and dried fruits; Dry herbs, seasonings, and mixtures; Homemade pasta; Cereals, trail mixes, and granola; Coated or uncoated nuts; Vinegar and flavored vinegars; and Popcorn and popcorn balls. Many of these products are derived from home-grown produce, giving farmers an additional source of income and a creative outlet. However, using home-grown products is not a necessary requirement for Florida cottage food sellers.  Florida Cottage Laws Florida cottage laws focus largely on how and where products can be sold. These laws are governed by Florida Statute 500.80. But keep in mind that other states or individual municipalities may have different regulations than the State of Florida has. Selling in Florida Cottage food operators can sell cottage foods only within the State of Florida. Once the products enter into interstate commerce, they must follow the cottage laws of other states, which may or may not allow similar sales.  Maximum Sales Gross annual sales for cottage foods may not exceed $50,000 according to Florida cottage laws. Sales are taxable income.  Cottage Food Production Food produced for sale has to be prepared in the kitchen of your primary residence. It cannot be made in a summer home, motor home, vacation home, or outdoor cooking environment.  E-Commerce Sales Many people search for and purchase products online. Cottage food operators may sell their food products online, but they must hand-deliver them. This is also a deterrent for interstate or international commerce.  Private Events  Cupcakes, wedding cakes, and birthday cookies are all great common examples of cottage foods that may be produced specifically for an event. Cottage food products must be delivered directly to the consumer or to the consumer’s private event.  No Wholesale  According to Florida cottage food laws, cottage foods cannot be stocked on store shelves. There are additional requirements for wholesale products.   Local Laws A cottage food operation must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation, processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products. These may differ from statewide Florida cottage laws.  Florida Cottage Food Law Labeling Requirements Cottage foods must be properly packaged and labeled for consumer safety and include the statement, “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”  A cottage food operation may only sell prepackaged cottage food products. The label must be printed in English and contain the following information: The name and address of the cottage food operation;  The name of the cottage food product;  The ingredients of the cottage food product in descending order of predominance by weight;  The net weight or net volume of the cottage food product;  Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements; and Appropriate nutritional information as specified by federal labeling requirements.  Cottage food operators can serve free samples for tasting, but the samples must be prepackaged. Lab testing for an official ingredient list is not required.  If you have a secret ingredient that you want to keep to yourself, that may be permissible. According to federal regulations (Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 21CFR 101.100g(1)(2)), exceptions to labeling can be made. If the Commissioner of Food and Drugs determines that the alleged secret ingredients are harmless, you may receive an exemption. It is safer to make sure that you and the commissioner are in agreement before choosing to omit the ingredient, and you should contact the FDA to discuss the potential exemption.  Selling Florida Cottage Foods at Farmers’ Markets Cottage food sales are permitted at farmers’ markets, flea markets, and roadside stands. This is only true if you have no other food items in your space that require a food permit.  Depending on local regulations, some farmers’ markets and similar direct marketing venues may still require a food establishment license even if you meet the cottage food requirements. Local farmers’ markets and local municipalities often have their own policies.  Florida Cottage Foods Law Violations Whether you have accidentally or knowingly violated Florida cottage law, you may face penalties and be required to pay fines pursuant to Florida Statute 500.121. If you are concerned about compliance for your existing cottage food business or would like to explore how to start a cottage food business in Florida, you may want to have a chat […]

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Changing Your Land’s Zoning from Residential to Agricultural

Obtaining the perfect piece of land for your agricultural operation is one of the most important aspects of a solid business foundation. Unfortunately, if your property is not zoned for that particular use, you could find yourself stuck.  Changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural may not be an easy process, but depending on your intention, it could be well worth the effort.  The Importance of Zoning Zoning dictates various land use activities by classification for the purposes of planning and safety. Though zoning types may vary, most municipalities will zone land in the following general categories: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural, Recreational, and Historical. There are often subcategories that provide more detailed specifics on how the land can and cannot be used in each zone.  Florida Ag Zoning Zoned agricultural lands are areas that have been designated by local jurisdictions with the intention to guard farming land use against incompatible non-farming activities. One of the primary uses of this type of zone is to prevent conflicts between urban and agricultural land use. An ag zoned property does not necessarily have to be used for agricultural operations.  How to Change Zoning from Residential to Agricultural All requests for rezoning must be processed through the county or municipality where the specific property is located. Before considering changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural, you may want to consider speaking to a county planner to determine the likelihood of success given the exact location of the property in relation to other similarly zoned parcels. You may also choose to employ the help of an agriculture property attorney to help in this process.  Types of Zoning Changes Rezoning may not be the only option available to you. In some cases, it may be easier to apply for a temporary change to the ag zoning such as a special exception permit or zone variance permit. A variance grants a property owner the legal right to use the property in a way that is contrary to local zoning for that property. Special exception zoning decisions are often made before the zoning process is completed. The third option is getting the property legally and permanently rezoned.  Zoning Variance A zoning variance is granted when a property owner demonstrates an undue hardship. The hardship must exist because of unique circumstances not created by the property owner. Ignorance of the zoning law does not equal hardship.  There are two different types of zoning variances. A use variance allows the property to be used in a way that is prohibited in that zoning district. An area variance provides leniency on dimensional restrictions. This variance is used primarily for height restrictions or setback requirements.  Special Exception or Special Use Permit A special exception or use permit is applicable when using the property outside of zoning restrictions would adversely affect public health, safety, or any other concerns specified by the county. Exceptions are only available if specific limitations are set in place and conditions are met to address the concerns. Property Rezoning  Counties and municipalities have significant discretion on a rezoning approval. Proposals must follow procedures outlined by each local government. Rezoning typically requires evaluation by local officials such as the city planning commission, agriculture commissioner, and others. Community members may put pressure on elected officials to confirm or deny the land owner’s application. Rezoning may be considered under certain circumstances which include: The original property zoning contained an error or oversight, Geographical changes in the surrounding area prevent use of the property under its current zoning, or The rezoning request is consistent with the local government’s long-term land use plan.  It is important to have substantial evidence to support the rezoning. Seeking assistance from an experienced Florida property lawyer is a good way to increase your chance of success in changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural. Florida Rezoning Procedures Speaking to local officials responsible for land management is a great place to start the process. Often, local officials will be able to give you a better understanding of the potential success of an application for ag zoning. An attorney can also help you with this initial step prior to starting the official application process. The process of changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural differs between counties, though most follow similar general guidelines. Application Filing First you will need to obtain an application for rezoning from the county or municipality’s zoning office or department. You will also have to pay the application fee.  Review of the Application Next, the zoning staff will review your application. They will then make a written recommendation to the county board of commissioners.  Public Hearing The community has a right to weigh in on zoning decisions. Public notice is posted in advance of the hearing. The applicant may be required to make a statement about their request or respond to questions from the public and elected officials.  Rezoning Decisions Finally, the board of county commissioners receives the recommendation and renders a decision on the rezoning application. Appeal is unlikely for most decisions.  Should You Hire a Property Lawyer for Ag Zoning? The rezoning application process alone requires strict attention to detail and the ability to provide a convincing argument that conveys the benefit of rezoning for all parties potentially impacted. Rezoning can also have crucial tax implications that you should consider before making a decision on the specific type of zone you would like your property to be classified as. The worst mistake you could make for your property would be to underestimate the implications of your decision. Groves Law understands the nuances of Florida property law and can advise you on the best strategy for how to change zoning from residential to agricultural, whether that is through a zoning variance, a special exemption, or rezoning. Contact us today to begin the process of changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural, so you can get one important step closer to using your property in a meaningful way.

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Florida Overtime Laws for Agricultural Workers

As an agriculture employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that your employees have proper and safe working conditions and are fairly compensated. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) agriculture exemption, your obligations may vary from those of a standard employer. Understanding Florida agriculture overtime laws will help keep you compliant and in good standing with your employees.  Florida Agriculture Overtime Laws The FLSA exists to provide a fair wage standard to all employees. This includes requiring minimum wage payment and overtime of time and a half when employees work over 40 hours in a week. However, some employers are exempt from these rules, and that is where Florida agriculture overtime laws require a closer look.  FLSA Agriculture Exemption The agriculture industry has a lot of moving parts, and not all industries fall under the FLSA agriculture exemption. Several types of employees fall under the agriculture overtime exemption. Piece-Rate Employees Employees compensated on a piece-rate scale are exempt under the FLSA. Suchy employees are non-migrant workers employed in agriculture as hand-harvest laborers for fewer than 13 weeks during the previous year who commute to work daily.  Any agriculture employee who is 16 years of age or younger and employed as a hand-harvest laborer is also exempt. These employees are paid a piece-rate in an operation that is recognized as a piece-rate employer. They must be employed by the same operation as their family and paid the same rate as adult employees.  Livestock Range Production Employees primarily engaged in livestock range production and needing to be available at all hours to care for livestock are also exempt. This applies only if the nature of the work would make computing exact labor hours very difficult. Family Members  Members of the employer’s immediate family are excluded from minimum wage and agriculture overtime laws.  Small Farms Employees whose employer did not use more than 500 man-days of agricultural labor during any calendar quarter of the previous year are exempt from the minimum wage requirements but not overtime. The FLSA agriculture exemption defines a “man-day” as a day during which an employee worked a minimum of one hour. 500 man-days equal approximately seven full-time employees working five days a week.  Florida-Specific Agriculture Overtime Laws A state mandate for labor laws typically supersedes federal law if it provides additional protections. In the case of Florida agriculture overtime laws, the state does not have any specific regulations. This means that Florida agriculture employers should refer to the FLSA rules. The same is true for minimum wage exemptions.  Agriculture Payroll Record Keeping  Though an employee may fall under the FLSA agriculture exemption for overtime, they must still be compensated for each hour worked at their normal rate. It is important for employers to keep accurate and complete records for payroll. Records must include the employee’s: Full name, Social security number, Full address, Date of birth if under 19 years of age, Occupation,  Total hours worked every week, Regular hourly rate, Method of payment, Total weekly earnings,  Deductions or additions from the paycheck,  Total wages for the pay period, and Date of payment.  These records could change on a weekly basis, and the duties of the employee are especially important when it comes to determining exemption. The FLSA has a “look back” period that extends for three years, so it is important to keep records for at least that period of time.  When Employees Are Both Exempt and Non-Exempt One of the biggest pain points of Florida agriculture overtime exemption is reclassification of the employee from an exempt position to non-exempt. Because of the dynamic nature of many agriculture operations, it is easy for an employee to be re-assigned temporarily or permanently to a non-exempt position without even realizing it.  This happens often when the operation handles products that are not their own such as shipping or processing commodities produced by other companies. A hand-harvest laborer who meets the requirements of agriculture overtime exemption is no longer exempt if they are asked to load and unload commodities that they did not harvest. Their exemption becomes nullified, and they are owed time-and-a-half for any time over 40 hours in the week.  H2-A Worker Overtime Exemption The H2-A visa program allows employers to hire temporary foreign laborers to make up for the lack of domestic labor. It is a common assumption that all H2-A workers fall under the FLSA agricultural exemption. This is not necessarily true. Workers must still fit into one of the standards for exemption depending on their duties. Otherwise, the employer must pay minimum wage and overtime.  Liability for Lack of Compliance Agriculture employers who fail to comply with FLSA regulations may face audits or administrative actions by the United States Labor Department and potentially lawsuits filed by employees. Many employers work with farm labor contractors to obtain employees. Employers and contractors may be jointly liable for lack of compliance.  Talk to an Agricultural Business Lawyer About Your Obligations Agriculture overtime exemption laws can become complicated depending on the nature of your agriculture operation. Kara Groves is an experienced agriculture attorney who knows how difficult it can be to balance running a business and navigating legal compliance. Kara is based in Mount Dora, Florida, and accepts clients from across the state. Let her help you set up a system for compliance and fight for your rights as an agriculture employer so that you can focus on what you do best. Contact Groves Law for a consultation.

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Obtaining a Florida Marijuana Growing License

It’s been almost five years since Florida voters passed Amendment 2, the bill legalizing medical marijuana. Since then, over 30,000 cannabis-related jobs have been created, and cannabis sales across Florida now surpass $1.2 billion.  Unfortunately, the process for obtaining a Florida marijuana growing license is anything but straightforward. In fact, the whole process has been virtually ground to a halt by constantly changing legislation, confusing regulations, and endless litigation.  The good news is that there are promising signs that Florida will issue more licenses in the near future.  There’s more good news: You can take definite steps now to prepare your application for a Florida medical marijuana grower’s license.  After you read this article, your best bet is to give us a call. No matter how tricky your situation, we’ll do our best to help you prepare your business for success.  First Things First: Know the Current Situation  If you want to grow medical marijuana in Florida, a grower’s license is a must. First, you need to understand the current legal landscape regarding medical marijuana. Unlike other areas of law, the only constant in Florida’s medical marijuana industry has been change.  A Brief History of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Laws Florida Statute § 381.986 is the state’s medical marijuana law. This statute requires anyone growing marijuana to be licensed as a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). Without an MMTC license, growing marijuana is illegal.  Originally, any business involved in growing or selling marijuana could obtain an MMTC license. Shortly after the passage of Amendment 2, however, Florida’s state legislature passed a bill that required all MMTCs to have “vertical integration.”  This meant that the MMTC couldn’t just grow marijuana and sell it to a distributor. Instead, each MMTC had to be able to grow, process, market, and sell the drug itself. In other words, it had to manage the marijuana “from seed to sale.” Obviously, this bill made it way more difficult for small businesses to get an MMTC license. Various groups sued the state to change the licensure process. Right now, these lawsuits are still ongoing.  A Shortage of Licenses Another difficulty of the process has to do with the group that issues licenses. Florida’s medical marijuana statute states that only the Florida Department of Health (DOH) can issue MMTC licenses.  Unfortunately, the DOH hasn’t been great about issuing licenses. In fact, they’ve issued only 22 MMTC licenses to date. This already complex situation became even more complicated when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.  Now, you might be thinking about simply buying a license. And technically, you could do that. But because of the critical shortage of MMTC licenses, the going rate for an MMTC with a license is in the millions of dollars.  In fact, a Mount Dora nursery with a medical marijuana license sold for $14 million last year! Upcoming Changes While this news may seem discouraging, change is on the horizon. There is at least one ongoing lawsuit that could result in many more MMTC licenses. Members of Florida’s state legislature proposed at least one bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2020. Also, it appears likely that Florida will vote on full marijuana legalization in 2022.   Until then, you can take important steps to prepare and submit your MMTC license.  How to Get a Grower’s License In Florida The first step in obtaining a Florida marijuana growing license is to meet the minimum requirements listed in Florida’s medical marijuana law. Next, you should prepare additional information that might be required. The third and final step is to pay any required fees.  Step #1: Meet the Basic Legal Requirements  Florida law states that all applicants for an MMTC must demonstrate that they have: A business that has been registered in Florida for the past five years; A valid nursery certificate of registration from Florida’s Department of Agriculture;  The technical and technological ability to cultivate and produce marijuana, including low-THC cannabis; The ability to secure the premises, resources, and personnel necessary to operate as an MMTC; The ability to control all any and all cannabis products, including the raw cannabis plant parts and any byproducts; The infrastructure to dispense marijuana to registered qualified Florida medical marijuana patients; The financial resources to keep operations going during the two-year approval cycle;  A medical director to supervise the MMTC’s activities; and A diversity plan that ensures the involvement of minority- and veteran-owned businesses.  Applicants must also obtain level 2 background checks for all owners, managers, officers, and board members.  This requires each individual to give a full set of fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The best way to get a required set of fingerprints is to visit an approved fingerprint service provider. We’ve added a directory of current service providers here.  Step #2: Prepare Additional Detailed Information About Your Business In 2018, the DOH proposed an administrative rule that expanded the requirements to get an MMTC license. With that rule, the DOH released an Application for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Registration. The supporting administrative rule was withdrawn last month, so these exact rules don’t apply at this point. However, it’s possible that future MMTC applications will use similar factors to determine whether a business should receive an MMTC. For that reason, it’s worth reviewing the information in the 2018 MMTC application to look for extra information you can prepare now.  Sixteen Key Areas In the 2018 application, applicants had to provide written responses demonstrating their knowledge and capabilities in sixteen areas. The DOH then judged those responses and assigned each one a point value.  The maximum points for each section ranged from 50 to 100. The higher the points the applicant received, the more likely their application would be approved.  The whole process was kind of like a high school test.  The sixteen areas listed in the MMTC application, along with the maximum number of points, were: Cultivation Knowledge and Experience (50 Points); Medical Marijuana Cultivation Plan (50 points); Description of the Planned Cultivation Infrastructure (50 points); Processing, […]

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Hot Dogs & CBD

Are you an antique and collectibles dealer with dreams of operating a hot dog stand alongside CBD products? Probably not. But the regulation of hemp-derived CBD in the Sunshine state makes it possible. That’s because Florida is among a small number of states boldly recognizing hemp-derived CBD as food. And that’s a big deal. To be frank, the federal government tends to disagree.  Still, businesses across Florida are wading into murky waters for the opportunity to become a destination of sorts for CBD-infused commodities, well ahead of the national market. FDACPS Regulations for Selling CBD That said, potential CBD retailers would do well to be mindful of the regulatory framework that the Department of Agriculture Consumer Protection Services (FDACPS) continues to expand. See generally F.A.C. Rule 5K-4.034 and F.S. 581.217. For now, FDACPS treats a storefront hopeful to sell ingestible CBD much like any other similarly-situated food business, but with its own special “Hemp Food Establishment Permit” at a cost of $650.  Otherwise, the process mirrors that of any other food vendor–depending on how you intend to handle and sell the CBD oil or CBD-infused product, you’ll have to sort through sanitation and wastewater needs, meet the minimum construction standards for your business type, and make sure local authorities are on board. More than likely you’ll also be subject to a few more FDACPS inspections than your non-CBD neighbors. In practical terms then, so much as a CBD gummy bear renders your business a food retailer subject to the rules and regulations of a similarly-situated food establishment (in that case, prepackaged foods, like hot dogs!). While your storefront may already meet many of those requirements, it’s important to recognize that falling under FDACPS’ regulatory authority is much more than a fee and some inspections.  CBD products must follow certain labelling requirements and be sourced from FDACPS-approved manufacturers (CBD is very clearly excluded from Florida’s cottage laws). And, again, be sure to keep track of the ever-changing CBD landscape. Since the federal government still isn’t totally on board, watch what you say about the benefits of CBD and understand that any future financing needs may be affected by your new CBD-infused treats.  But every new hoop to jump is an opportunity to expand the business. Developing a small coffee shop, showcasing other local food products, or making room for some hot dogs, the choice is yours–if you’re going to be treated like a food establishment, you might as well act like one.  Contact Groves Law Today Questions about ingestible CBD? Let’s chat. CBD products have many regulations and Groves Law can help you navigate them to expand your business. Contact us at contact@groveslaw.ag to schedule a consultation. Because we’re attorneys: This blog post is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis as of the date of publication. We disclaim any duty to update or correct any information contained in this blog post, including errors, even if we are notified about them. To the fullest extent permitted by law, we disclaim all representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied with respect to the information contained in this blog post, including, but not limited to, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title, non-infringement, accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. We will not be liable for damages of any kind arising from or in connection with your use of or reliance on this blog post, including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, and punitive damages. You agree to use this blog post at your own risk. Regarding your particular circumstances, we recommend that you consult your own legal counsel (hopefully Groves Law).

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“U-Pick” or Don’t — Navigating Florida’s Growing Agritourism Trend

Florida’s commercial economy has shifted focus in recent years to unite its two largest industries, tourism and agriculture. Agritourism, otherwise known as ecotourism, promotes low impact travel across Florida and has come to enjoy certain protections and incentives (a limited liability statute and tax exemptions, to name a few). Explaining U- Pick Farms A popular agritourism activity is a “u-pick” farm, where private landowners or commercial retailers invite the public to, as its name suggests, grab whatever they have to offer, whether blueberries, rosemary or sunflowers.  While developing a “u-pick” farm can be a quick revenue boost with long term sustainability, where you are and what you want to do can present a unique set of challenges. For example, while larger family farms already have the know-how to easily develop crop and transition parts of the land to “u-pick” spaces, opening your home up to the public may actually qualify a “nuisance” (despite Florida’s Right to Farm Act), and farmers can be forced to pay their neighbors when parking or waste overflow issues develop. Zoning Matters for Your U-Pick Moreover, while local authorities are limited in how much they can restrict agrotourism activities where property is zoned agricultural (per Florida’s agritourism statute), “substantial offsite impact” can be regulated by county and city ordinances. Plus, in order to enjoy the limited liability statute noted above, the property must be zoned agricultural and maintain very specific signage wherever customers are. It also goes without saying (but we will), that local zoning and health authorities have a say in parking and ADA compliance, handwash sinks and public restrooms. Which is why commercial retailers or restaurants with those build-outs already in place might consider adding a “u-pick” element to their existing space. Particularly since “u-pick” activities are likely considered lower impact than what they’re currently zoned for, rendering a variance unnecessary. Still, allowing customers to pick their own flowers, herbs or produce in a brewery or home goods store isn’t exactly written into the land use plan. Moreover, some cities have peculiar ordinances regulating “gardens” and the like in commercial spaces.  Still, in quickly urbanizing communities with a focus on low-impact development, agriculturally zoned land may abut commercial districts where tourists are already flocking (check-out all these AR-zoned areas near downtown Mount Dora here) and present a lucrative ecotourism opportunity just off the beaten path. Beginners Beware “Beginner” farmers beware, however–if you’re looking to make some cash quick, be sure to skip the berries or fruit trees and opt for some pumpkins, herbs or annual flowers (hand-picked bouquet, anyone?). Moreover, give some thought to the extra clean-up and care you’ll need to devote to your brood with all that pulling and picking. Investing in some friendly signage to let folks know what to pull and when may save you a lot of heartache. Want to Start A U-Pick Farm? Ultimately, no matter where you are in Florida, state and local authorities (and potentially the Feds), will be involved. But as Florida continues to embrace its producers and these direct to consumer movements, it may be worth the effort, wherever your space and however “u-pick.”  Consulting an agribusiness attorney can help you figure out how to comply with state and local reuglations. Questions about your U-Pick farm? Let’s chat. Contact us at contact@groveslaw.ag to schedule a consultation.

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Go “Green” and Save Some Green: Florida’s Agricultural Exemption

In the late 1950s, when suburbia began upending the value of farm land and agribusiness, the State of Florida passed the “Greenbelt” Law, Fla. Stat. 193.461, the answer to a concerted effort to encourage commercial agriculture. A “use-value” exemption, the Greenbelt Law assessed a cattle ranch at the value of its current use, far below its development potential as a condominium or commercial plaza. Property owners have long taken advantage of the Greenbelt law, infamously through “rent-a-cow” type-programs where ill-cared for livestock or the like were placed on the property to significantly reduce tax liability at the initial stages of massive redevelopment. As farm-to-table and other direct-to-consumer movements continue to gain popularity in Florida, however, landowners and lessees should understand how to take advantage of this significant tax break as the legislature intended. Taking Advantage of Florida’s Greenbelt Law It is not enough to buy farm land. In fact, the property doesn’t even have to be zoned for agricultural use. It comes down to whether the local property appraiser thinks the land qualifies for a “bona fide agriculture purpose” under the non-exhaustive factors of Fla. Stat. 193.461(b) (considering, for example, the size of the space being used for agriculture or whether accepted farming practices are in place).  Essentially, is the agricultural use the “most significant activity” and not a “sham or deception.” Hausman v. Rudkin, 268 So. 2d 407, 409 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972). And while the Florida Supreme Court has made clear that the agricultural use does not have to be commercially profitable, there still has to be a legitimate effort to gain income. Straughn v. Tuck, 354 So. 2d 368 (Fla. 1977). In other words, while legitimate agricultural activity needs to take place, parts of the property can be more retailer-focused. Misuse of Florida’s Agricultural Exemption That being said, big developers have maneuvered this exemption well and that’s unlikely to change. Still, some local governments have attempted to crack down on misuse of this law with, you guessed it, county to county variations in the application process. Some counties, for instance, require proof of ownership if a company owns the land, or certain agriculture certificates if the applicant purports to start a nursery or orchard, or raise livestock or horses.  Proving You Qualify For Florida’s Agricultural Tax Exemption Regardless of where you are, the process begins with Florida Department of Revenue form DR-482. March 1st is the application deadline, and your property must already have a “bona fide agriculture purpose” as of January 1st the year you apply (or face another set of paperwork).  Overall, it’s the applicant’s burden to show a legitimate agricultural use. And exactly what qualifies for that continues to change shape (grapes, birds, now weddings, oh my!). But for entrepreneurs entering a consumer market increasingly willing to pay the extra dollar for local product, why not save one while you’re at it? Need help proving you have a legitimate agricultural use? Let’s chat. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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