As the wheels of the legislative process continue to turn, the 2018 Farm Bill has confronted its share of potholes, primarily the result of disagreement on food stamp work requirements. Now, an external complication, Hurricane Michael, might push passage of the Farm Bill into early 2019. Per House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, in the lame-duck session, after the November general election, there will be pressure for legislators to immediately turn to emergency funding legislation to help rebuild parts of states that were destroyed by the hurricane. He posits that it will likely take priority over other legislative matters, including the Farm Bill. That said, he still declared his hope that a compromise Farm Bill will be ready for the week of November 12, when Congress will return to Washington. Of course, there are four other critical partners to the Farm Bill negotiations: Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, Senate Ag Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway, and Senator McConnell. They have not spoken concerning the impact of Hurricane Michael on the timeline of the Farm Bill. So it remains to be seen if the bill is passed by the end of this year or whether it becomes a 2019 priority. Keep in mind as well that the Farm Bill, and more specifically hemp, could have no bigger proponent than the Majority Leader of the Senate. He wants to get this done and is still very committed to it, given the benefit to farmers and the support it has in Kentucky. Equally important, the Farm Bill must pass. The Farm Bill must be reauthorized/renewed every four to five years because there are funding streams within the legislation that expire. The 2014 reauthorization of the Farm Bill expired on September 30; however, the funding streams created through that legislation have yet to run out, but are likely to either by the end of this year or sometime during 2019. At some point, the reality of finite or limited funding will create the urgency necessary to get the reauthorization over the finish line, despite difference on food stamp work requirements. Thankfully, while the “big four” negotiate the reauthorization, the pilot program that you rely on is not subject to any expiration, funding or otherwise, of the 2014 Farm Bill. Section 7606 is permanent. It is firmly codified in the United States Code, under Chapter 7, section 5940, and can only end by way of an affirmative act of Congress. Plus, as recently as October 1, Congress reaffirmed its commitment to protect the pilot program from unwarranted intrusions from the DEA and other law enforcement agencies through its passage and the president’s signing of a temporary appropriations bill. Therein, Congress restated that no funds should be used to contravene “section 7606 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (7 U.S.C. 5940); or to prohibit the transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp, or seeds of such plant, that is grown or cultivated in accordance with subsection section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, within or outside the State in which the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated.” Waiting for passage of the reauthorized Farm Bill—with the Hemp Farming Act provisions—is not ideal, but every single action taken by Congress related to hemp has been positive and should give some level of confidence in the eventual legalization of the crop. Stay the course. And please use our portal to contact your Members of Congress to urge them to support hemp in the final version of the Farm Bill.
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