Election Returns Likely to Usher in Hemp Amendment With Farm Bill

By William Sumner, Hemp Business Journal Contributor

Last week, millions of Americans took to the polls to cast their vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Though the implications for the Democratic Party majority’s retaking the House of Representatives are still taking shape, one consequence of the elections could be revival of the 2018 Farm Bill, which contains an amendment that would fully legalize hemp production in the United States.

Championed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the amendment has gained broad support from both Republicans and Democrats, many of who see a revived hemp industry as a remedy to sagging soybean prices and economically hard-hit rural communities. However, the overall bill has stalled in Congress due to contention between House and Senate Republicans over a rider to the bill.

Specifically, the debate is in deadlock over entitlement reform: Some House Republicans want to impose stricter work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, and are using passage of the omnibus legislation as leverage.

Enter the midterm returns: The House Democrats’ electoral victories automatically erode some of the negotiating leverage that the Republicans enjoyed a week earlier.

Now that the GOP opposition faces a Democratic majority next session, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) believes that House Republicans may be more willing to compromise. As the ranking Democratic member and presumptive incoming chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Peterson sees passage as an imperative.

“I want this done. I don’t want this farm bill to be on my plate when I become chairman,” Peterson said in a radio interview. “Now [with] what’s happened with the election, the leverage, whatever leverage they did have on the SNAP stuff, I don’t see that they have any leverage anymore.”

Peterson added during the interview that he has plans to meet with the current agriculture committee chair, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), to hash out the details of a compromise bill. Before Congress left for recess, Conaway and Peterson, along with the Senate agriculture committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), had a tentative agreement to have a compromise bill ready by November 14, though it is unclear whether they will meet that deadline.

Speaking to reporters at a November 9 press conference, McConnell called passing the Farm Bill before the end of the year his “highest priority” and expressed confidence that the House and Senate would be able to pass a final bill that includes his hemp amendment.

“It will be in there, I guarantee you that,” McConnell said. “I don’t want to overstate this; I don’t know whether [hemp] is going to be the next tobacco or not, but I do think it has a lot of potential.”

If Congress passes the Farm Bill with McConnell’s amendment, the effect on the hemp industry would be tremendous. Major U.S. companies like Walmart and Coca-Cola are rumored to be considering making an entry into the CBD market, and the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill would most likely push them to the decision.

J.J. McCoy, New Frontier Data Senior Managing Editor

William Sumner

William Sumner is a writer for the hemp and cannabis industry. Hailing from Panama City, Florida, William covers various topics such as hemp legislation, investment, and business. William’s writing has appeared in publications such as Green Market Report, Civilized, and MJINews. You can follow William on Twitter: @W_Sumner.