President Trump capped off 2018 by signing the Agriculture Improvement Act on Dec. 20, a $867 billion piece of legislation which will assist farmers by allocating funds for aid, research projects and mental health programs to fight the rising suicide crisis in the farming community.
At the ceremonial signing, Trump praised Democrats for their cooperation on the farm bill, as congressional members from both parties negotiated terms since April 2018 with Republicans needing to make concessions to garner support from the left.
Republicans have long pushed for more work requirements for Americans using food stamps in order to decrease the number of participants. But those requests were left out of the farm bill due to Democratic refusal. Despite GOP concessions, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue expressed optimism, stating:
“It was a good bipartisan vote in Congress — and while we didn’t get everything that we had hoped to get in the bill, it’s a very stable bill for agriculture and for the consumers, as well.”
The 2018 farm bill also included a provision legalizing hemp, a plant used for commercial and industrial products which has been banned since the 1970s under the Control Substance Act due to its close relation with marijuana.
Hemp, which has been used since ancient times in Mesopotamia, comes from the same family as marijuana, Cannabis Sativa. However, it lacks enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to get users high. Hemp has over 25,000 known uses, and has been used by car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi in the manufacture of car parts such as glass.
Hemp takes only four months to harvest and is projected to be very beneficial to the U.S. economy. However, despite the benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still taking a gingerly approach in terms of regulations.
FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, is being cautious regarding the new hemp law, recognizing his duty to protect American markets.
“Congress explicitly preserved the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.” stated Gottlieb.
“In short, we treat products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds as we do any other FDA-regulated products — meaning they’re subject to the same authorities and requirements as FDA-regulated products containing any other substance. This is true regardless of the source of the substance, including whether the substance is derived from a plant that is classified as hemp under the Agriculture Improvement Act.”
Many federal agencies have been wary of the new hemp law, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been an advocate of the reform, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), both of whom recognize the economic benefits, particularly for their home state of Kentucky.
“I used my very own hemp pen to sign the conference report, clearing the way for the House and Senate to pass legislation and send it to the president’s desk. I’m proud that the bill includes my provision to legalize the production of industrial hemp. It’s a victory for farmers and consumers throughout our country,” said McConnell.
The ultimate effects of the 2018 farm bill are unknown in the new year, but with cooperation from both parties in Congress, the future finally looks brighter for American farmers.
[Washington Post] [The Hill] [NBC News] [Photo courtesy Civil Eats]