After a significant amount of anticipation toward the September 30th deadline for a decision on the 2018 Farm Bill, Agriculture Committee members have announced that conference negotiations will continue following mid-term elections in November. With numerous issues left to resolve, from commodity policy to food stamps, it was certain that the House and Senate would not reach a deal in time to pass legislation before the current law expires at the end of the month.
What does this mean for the prospect of permanent hemp legalization?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has secured the Hemp Farming Act in the current draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, and it is expected to be included in the final draft. If, and when, the Farm Bill is passed, this provision will remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, and permanently legalize it as an agricultural commodity.
How does this effect state hemp pilot programs?
While the 2014 Farm Bill expires on September 30th, state’s with hemp pilot programs will not be effected in any way. According to United States Code, under Chapter 7, section 5940, the hemp pilot programs were established without any termination point, and will only end when Congress terminates it. Additionally, the Hemp Farming Act within the 2018 Farm Bill contains provisions which will replace the hemp pilot programs with state regulation.
While this delay may seem somewhat discouraging to hemp advocates, it does not effect the current status of hemp, nor does it indicate any issues regarding the hemp language included in the bill. It is also not uncommon for a Farm Bill to take longer to pass than expected. The 2014 Farm Bill was considered to be two years late, since farm bills are traditionally passed every five years and the previous farm bill had expired in 2012.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) says he hopes negotiations will progress so Congress can vote on a farm bill compromise during lawmakers' first week back after the midterms, though political realities on Capitol Hill could be different at that time. Agriculture lawmakers in both parties have been vocal about the need to pass a farm bill on time to provide producers with some certainty amid stubbornly low commodity prices and trade woes.