Farm Bill Update (November)
Farming isn’t easy. Sometimes no matter how much you plan or how hard you work, you come up short. Natural disasters, bad weather and yo-yo market prices are beyond the control of farmers and those in the agricultural business. Those unforeseen challenges endanger their bottom lines. Right now, the 2018 farm bill is at a standstill in conference committee.
The purpose of the farm bill is to provide farmers with a soft landing during unpredictable events. It sets our nation’s food policy and helps ensure food security in the United States. The purpose is not to give unlimited aid to people who don’t need them, yet that seems to be one of the blockades impeding upon the 2018 farm bill from passing out of conference committee.
As the legislative process continues to on, the 2018 Farm Bill has been challenged with its fair share of pitfalls, mostly the result of disagreement on food stamp work requirements. Now, an external factor, Hurricane Michael, might push the Farm Bill’s passage into early 2019. Per House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, in the hold over, after the November general election, there will be expectation of legislators to immediately turn to emergency funding legislation to help repair parts of states that were damaged by the hurricane. He mentions it will likely take priority over other legislative matters, including the Farm Bill. That said, he still stated his hope that a compromise Farm Bill will be ready for the week of November 12, when Congress will return to Washington.
There are four other major 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 indicated 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 becomes a priority of 2019.
It is also to be noted 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 haven’t ran out, but are likely to either by the end of this year or sometime during 2019. Soon, the reality of finite or limited funding will create the importance needed to get the reauthorization, regardless of difference on food stamp work requirements.
Luckily, 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. In addition, as of 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. In that, 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, however every action taken by Congress related to hemp has been positive and should provide some level of ease in the eventual legalization of the crop.