The joint House and Senate Farm Bill conference committee held their first meeting on Wednesday morning. This is the beginning of an effort to resolve the differences between the two versions of the 2018 Farm Bill legislation passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.
The committee’s meeting is particularly interesting to advocates for industrial hemp, because the Senate’s version of the bill contained provisions that will make it much easier for American farmers to grow this valuable crop.
The 2014 Farm Bill created the state-based hemp pilot program. This has allowed some farmers to gain a tentative foothold in hemp agriculture.
But that bill expires this year, leading to the urgent need to pass legislation to replace it. Committee members stressed the need for bipartisanship to resolve these differences by September 30.
While industrial hemp is just one part of the Farm Bill, which also addresses topics like conservation, crop insurance, and trade, it was promising that multiple conferees mentioned hemp in today’s remarks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been an outspoken advocate for industrial hemp, opened his remarks by saying, “I can’t remember the last time I appointed myself to a conference, but I wanted to contribute personally.”
Sen. McConnell spent much of his speaking time on industrial hemp, urging the committee to retain the parts of the Senate’s bill that would make it much easier for American farmers to grow the crop.
Want to see who said what about hemp? Check out the full video of today’s meeting above, or read on for our transcript of the conferees’ hemp-related remarks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
“Now, it’s no secret, I’m particularly excited about the parts of the Senate-passed bill that concern industrial hemp. And I want to recognize my friend and colleague, Congressman Comer from western Kentucky, who as commissioner of agriculture before he came to Congress was the first Kentuckian to take a major lead role in what has now become a national consensus, I believe, that industrial hemp deserves a comeback.
I think the confusion with its more controversial cousin has largely been eliminated, and I particularly want to give him a shoutout: not only now here to finish the job as a part of this conference, but for really starting this issue in our state.
Consumers, as we all know, have been consuming hemp products for decades. It’s everywhere. It’s just coming from some other country.
It’s past time that we build on the work that we began with the pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill and unleash farmers in Kentucky and any other state we represent that wants to take a shot at it. With proper oversight they can capitalize on this multi-billion dollar market.”
(Senator McConnell’s remarks begin at 47:48.)
Congressman Bob Goodlatte
“I would also like to give a shoutout to Congressman Comer for his outstanding work in bringing back to the agriculture sector a very important crop, hemp, that as the majority leader in the Senate noted is clearly distinguishable from its cousin. It should be something that this farm bill takes the opportunity to bring to full force, and allow American farmers to offer the base crop that can be converted into thousands of consumer products.”
(Congressman Goodlatte’s remarks begin at 59:56.)
Congressman James Comer
“The last farm bill opened the door to bringing industrial hemp back to America through the state based pilot programs.
As Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner I had the pleasure of establishing the very first of those programs, and it has been wildly successful.
I’m proud to work with Leader McConnell to take the next step to advance this valuable commodity by expanding the ability to grow industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and by placing it under the USDA’s jurisdiction like other commodities.
I’m also thankful to House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte for all of his work on industrial hemp throughout this process. I encourage this conference to adopt that language and provide farmers with another tool in their toolbox.”
(Congressman Comer’s remarks begin at 2:42:50.)
What’s next for the 2018 Farm Bill?
US Hemp Roundtable caught up with Congressman Comer after the meeting, who said in a Facebook video that, “It’s a good day to be involved in the industrial hemp industry in America.”
He went on to note that the committee is mostly in agreement on the agricultural parts of the bill, including industrial hemp. The biggest area of contention is the set of provisions concerning work requirements for food stamps.
Still, committee members on both sides of the aisle repeatedly emphasized the need to complete their work in a timely manner. If all goes as planned, the Farm Bill should be signed into law by September 30th.