Take a walk with us back to when Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill. It got a ton of buzz and many people had a general understanding that the bill dealt with the legal status of hemp. But there are still so many questions that the public had and continue to have about the exact ramifications.
In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about exactly what the Farm Bill means.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a wide-ranging piece of legislation. It encompasses most of the United States’ federal policies relating to domestic agriculture. The bill generally gets renewed on a five-year basis.
It has provisions divided into “Titles.” These are overarching categories that involve farming and food in the United States. The 2014 Farm Bill contained 12 Titles. These included trade, conservation, nutrition, commodities, rural development, credit, energy, research, forestry, crop insurance, horticulture, and miscellaneous. Additional titles can be put into the Farm Bill during its reauthorization process (for example, the energy Title was added in the 2002 Farm Bill).
The U.S. Farm Bill was first introduced in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Agricultural Act. It created subsidies for domestic farmers during the height of the Great Depression. The federal government began to pay American farmers to stop producing main crops, known as commodities. This had the goal of decreasing supply to raise the prices of staple crops. The Act added several provisions about conservation and surplus harvest storage. It also provided support for farmers who were suffering from the aftermath of the Dust Bowl.
The Agricultural Act was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was because the tax structure that funded it was seen as an overreach of the federal government. However, the Act’s basic premise was implemented by the Agricultural Adjustments Acts. These Acts would eventually become the foundation for future Farm Bills. Farm Bills have been passed every five or six years since 1965.
Every five years, the Farm Bill is put up for renewal by Congress. Representatives negotiate on what will be in the bill, usually over two or three years. Sometimes, negotiations last longer when representatives are unable to reach a consensus. Negotiations begin in the House of Representatives and the Senate Agricultural Committees. There, representatives hold hearings to review current policies. They also introduce desired legislative changes and negotiate funding strategies for adopted changes. Negotiations are usually held about two years before the reauthorization deadline. Representatives also meet with farm lobbyists, trade organizations, and civil organizations. All these may have a stake in parts of the Farm Bill. Representatives will also hold town hall meetings. This lets them gain insight from constituents about issues in the Farm Bill.
During renegotiation, The Department of Agriculture and the White House also publish their own additions to the Farm Bill. Agency officials conduct research and discuss strategies with important stakeholders. They also produce policy and legislative proposals to submit to Congress. Congress finally decides what is incorporated into the final bill.
Once the last round of hearings in the Agricultural Committees finish, the bill’s drafting process begins. The final version of the bill is agreed upon by the House and Senate Agricultural Committees. This version is then sent to the Senate and House floors for finalizing discussions. The two Houses produce a joint version of the Farm Bill to be sent to the president for him to sign into law.
This was big. The 2018 Farm Bill ended the federal prohibition of hemp and hemp products. It has been a major boon to hemp businesses throughout the United States. Hemp is now defined as the “plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant . . . with a [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent”. This means that hemp and hemp products (such as CBD) are no longer included in the Control Substances Act. This has finally removed the legal ambiguities surrounding the hemp and CBD industries.
The bill took effect immediately. Federal authorities began treating hemp like other agricultural commodities. This means hemp businesses have the same rights and protections as other agricultural producers. Governments also cannot bring criminal charges against hemp producers who violate regulations. Hemp producers can no longer be prosecuted for growing “hot” plants that do not meet standards. Instead, three violations in a five-year period leads to a ban from hemp production for five years.
The 2018 Farm Bill makes allowance for interstate hemp commerce. It also prohibits government agencies from preventing hemp shipment and transport. The bill also makes it easier for hemp farmers to operate their businesses. It does this by allowing farmers to gain access to federally backed farm support. These support programs include federal water access and crop insurance. They also include low-interest loans for newcomers. Hemp businesses are also entitled to federal patent and trademark protections like any other business. The bill gives the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to regulate hemp on the federal level. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to regulate hemp used for food, drugs, or cosmetics. These changes give a stable regulatory foundation for hemp businesses to build upon.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a major event in the history of the cannabis industry. The removal of hemp from a Schedule I controlled substance to a legal commodity is significant. On the federal level, hemp and hemp-derived products (such as CBD) are legal. This means they are also subject to regulation like any other legal substance. This has given a surge of momentum for the cannabis industry. It also means that cannabis is on its way to becoming safer and more effective. For the time being, marijuana remains on the Schedule I list. Despite this, the 2018 Farm Bill is still an important step forward for the cannabis industry in its journey toward full legal status.
That concludes our history lesson! Don’t worry, there’s no pop quiz.
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