McConnell Guarantees Hemp Legalization as Farm Bill Nears Passage

Farm with silos and red barn

Mitch McConnell guarantees that the hemp provisions in the Senate version of the Farm Bill will be in the final version of the bill once passed. The 2014 Farm Bill expired September 30, and while both the Senate and the House have passed their own versions of the bill, a tense debate over work requirements for food stamps has prevented the chambers from coming to a compromise. However, with the impending Democratic takeover of the House, House Republicans are likely to come to terms quickly with the Senate over the legislation during the lame-duck session.

Mitch McConnell Guarantees Hemp Provisions Will Be in Farm Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is guaranteeing that hemp legalization will be a part of the finalized 2018 Farm Bill.

The hemp language was included when the Senate overwhelmingly passed their version of the bill in June but was not in the House’s version.

The provisions would fully legalize hemp after the 2014 Farm Bill allowed restricted cultivation of hemp under state pilot programs.

Kentucky, McConnell’s home state, has a rich history with hemp. The state has been growing hemp since the colonial days and especially grew to prominence for its hemp in the 19th century.

However, hemp was essentially banned in 1937 and eventually listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.

Now, hemp is making a significant comeback as Kentucky approved 12,000 acres for growing the plant in 2018.

The decline of tobacco has helped lead to that figure as farmers have started growing hemp instead.

In a Forbes article by David Carpenter, Kentucky farmer Brent Cornett says hemp is far outperforming tobacco.

“There’s been plenty of challenges with a new crop, but as of today, a mediocre hemp crop is yielding a better return than an excellent tobacco crop,” said Cornett.

While McConnell is not making any bold predictions, he has high hopes for hemp.

“I don’t want to overstate this — I don’t know whether it’s going to be the next tobacco or not, but I do think it has a lot of potential,” said McConnell.

Farm Bill Nearing Compromise?

Both chambers of Congress could not come to a compromise on the new Farm Bill before the 2014 Farm Bill expired on September 30, leaving farmers in the dark.

The most pertinent issue is the work requirements for food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The House bill would increase the number of hours an individual must work to be eligible for SNAP.

The House version of the bill includes the work rules while the Senate version does not.

With the Democratic party poised to take over the House in January, House Republicans have reason to come to a compromise quickly rather than risk starting over in 2019.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn), a member on the House Agriculture Committee who is expected to be chairman, made it clear he wanted to complete the Farm Bill before the new members of Congress are sworn in.

“The farmers need certainty,” he said. “They’re facing some of the toughest times we’ve had for a long time. The last thing they need is not knowing what the farm bill is going to be.”

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