Hemp hangs in balance as Farm Bill talks stall

Entrepreneurs hoping for a long-awaited hemp expansion from Congress are nervously watching as the end-of-the-month deadline nears.

Hemp farmers hoped to see quick action on the 2018 Farm Bill, including a provision to take hemp off the Controlled Substances Act that was included in the Senate version.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The current Farm Bill, which expires Sept. 30, is a monster piece of legislation that contains much more than hemp – from authorizing farm subsidy payments to setting international trade and tariff rules for food.
  • The House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans, currently are sniping over changes to the federal food stamp program, among other things.
  • The stalemate means Congress may have to temporarily extend the current law. That would leave the nascent hemp industry under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows states to authorize hemp experimentation but doesn’t require states to allow hemp.

Despite the U.S. House’s Yom Kippur break this week, top Farm Bill negotiators may keep working, Politico reports. But so far, agreement has been elusive.

“The world doesn’t end if we don’t reach an agreement,” Sen. Pat Roberts, head of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Politico last week.

Even if Congress agrees on a Farm Bill that expands hemp, big changes would be in store for the industry.

Many existing hemp states, including the nation’s top hemp producer, Colorado, have hemp laws on the books that would be immediately repealed in case of federal authorization of hemp production.