The tumultuous journey of the 2018 Farm Bill may be finally coming to a close, according to Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). The passing of the Farm Bill would fully legalize hemp, a major boon for both the hemp and CBD industries. While Roberts did not provide any details on the hotly debated issues dividing the House and Senate, he did indicate legislators had finally come to a resolution. If the Farm Bill is not passed by the end of December, the legislation will have to start anew at the hands of the newly elected members of Congress.
The 2018 Farm Bill is “Very Close” to Passing
Pat Roberts, a Republican Senator from Kansas and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told reporters on Wednesday that he believed legislators were very close to making a deal on the farm bill.
“We have finally reached a point where I think we’re very close and very encouraged,” said Sen. Roberts.
The House and Senate have been trying to reach a compromise on several issues for months.
The most prominent debate is about work requirements for the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps. House Republicans wrote in stricter work requirements in their initial version while the Senate did not alter the policy in its proposal.
Other significant issues include forestry, which was recently addressed in light of the devastating California wildfires.
Republicans want to loosen restrictions on forest thinning practices to reduce the risk of such fires, while environmental groups and Democrats argue the government has enough authority to do so already.
Senator Roberts offered no details on how the policies were resolved.
Hemp Legalization Closer Than Ever
One aspect of the legislation that has enjoyed bipartisan support, however, is the legalization of hemp.
After Mitch McConnell guaranteed provisions fully legalizing hemp would be included in the Farm Bill earlier this month, hemp and CBD enthusiasts alike have been looking forward to its passage.
Now with Senator Roberts remarks, it seems the dream is inching ever closer to reality.
The provisions will remove hemp from the controlled substances list and allow its cultivation, processing, and sale, making it entirely legal.
Hemp became somewhat legal after the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed farmers to grow hemp under state-run pilot programs.
With the eventual passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is predicted to become a major commodity and will likewise greatly bolster the CBD market.
Hemp-derived CBD products have become increasingly popular in the health and wellness space, so much so that projections show nearly exponential valuations for the industry. Some reports claim the CBD industry could be worth $22 billion by 2022.
When Will the Farm Bill Pass?
While it seems that both chambers have come to some sort of agreement on the primary issues, there are still a few finishing touches left to be done.
“We have an agreement on the outstanding issues,” Sen. Roberts said. “But until you get that language on the bill, and you know where we are with the scoring, it’s premature to say that we have a complete agreement.”
The “scoring” refers to 10-year cost estimates the Congressional Budget Office will conduct.
So while a compromise seems to have been reached, the bill needs to be written, the estimates must be analyzed, and the bill will have to pass both houses before going to President Trump’s desk.
Congress has until the end of December to pass the Farm Bill, or else it must start again in January when the new members of Congress are sworn in.
The longer the wait, the more uncertainty that exists for farmers—as well as hemp and CBD enthusiasts.
“The paramount issue … is farmers need a bill. They need certainty and predictability. So if you have a strong feeling about a particular issue that is in a second place,” Sen. Roberts said.