At the end of June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which included the full text of McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act of 2018. If the Senate version is enacted, hemp and derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids derived from hemp would be treated as agricultural commodities and removed from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Though this is certainly exciting news, it’s not quite time to pop the CBD-infused champagne just yet.
Both the Senate and the House have passed their own versions of the Farm Bill. The Senate included the full text of McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act, but the House version was silent on hemp. The Farm Bill covers a vast range of agricultural issues including subsidies and crop insurance. Now the House and Senate must harmonize their versions of the Bill, including the provisions that relate to industrial hemp.
The House and Senate passed motions to proceed to conference for their respective the Farm Bills. Both chambers will need to agree on which portions of each bill will be included in a conference agreement. U.S. Hemp Roundtable compiled a list of conferees for the House and Senate. The House is represented by 47 conferees and the Senate is represented by 9 conferees.
The 9 Senate conferees show that the both Republicans and Democrats will be represented. The Senate Republicans will include Pat Roberts (Kan.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Boozman (Ark.), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Senate Democrats Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio). and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) will also negotiate on behalf of the Senate.
McConnell’s involvement is important for industrial hemp. McConnell was instrumental in passing the 2014 Farm Bill’s industrial hemp provision and continues to advocate for legalizing hemp. He even recently toured a hemp cultivation facility in Kentucky, as reported by the Lexington Herald Leader. He also happens to be the Senate Majority Leader making him one of the most powerful politicians in the country.
Here’s what McConnell had to say about the 2018 Farm Bill and his decision to sponsor the Hemp Farming Act:
I have proudly served on the Agriculture Committee since my first day in the Senate and know exactly how important this legislation is to agricultural communities across Kentucky, so as Majority Leader, I put myself on the Conference, and we’re ready to get to work to ensure the future of American agriculture. I will advocate for Kentucky’s multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry that supports thousands of good jobs and families in nearly every corner of the Commonwealth. Additionally, I will strongly advocate to legalize industrial hemp. I’m optimistic that my Hemp Farming Act, which I secured in the Senate bill, will be included in the final bill sent to the President for his signature. I am also glad to have the support of Congressman Comer on the Conference for legalizing industrial hemp.
If the House and Senate reach a resolution, they will issue a Conference Report that will be sent back to the House and Senate for final passage. If the passed in both chambers, the Bill would head to the Donald Trump’s desk for signature. For industrial hemp farmers, the sooner this happens, the better.
The 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30 or at the end of the applicable crop year. Hemp farmers operating under the 2014 Farm Bill will certainly be watching carefully to see whether the 2018 Farm Bill is signed prior to that date. If the 2014 Farm Bill expires, so too will the legal basis for cultivating industrial hemp under federal law. It’s possible that the 2014 Farm Bill will be extended in the event that the 2018 Farm Bill fails to pass. McConnell is hoping that the conference can reach agreement by Labor Day.