The Farm Bill is a large piece of legislation released every five years. The policy is set for agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry. The actual bill is 807 pages and has many amendments. It isn’t wholly redone every five years but reviewed and renewed.
The bill will continue to be debated for how it helps or hinders small farmers and what loopholes have been opened for large farming operations.
For most people the big news of the $867 billion Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 is how it applies to the industrial hemp industry.
Industrial Hemp is Now Legal
The biggest win for hemp is that the plant was reclassified. Hemp is no longer a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. The Farm Bill gives a new definition of hemp. Hemp is a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) by dry weight. This includes derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids.
The Federal Government no longer views hemp as illegal but is allowing each state to draft their own rules regarding the crop. Restrictions and requirements for growing hemp are up to the state. However, the state cannot interfere with the interstate transport of hemp products. The the U.S is still drafting changes for this policy. Department of Agriculture. Their Agriculture Marketing Service is writing interim rules to guide states, territories, and tribes on submitting plans. The framework is being set up to inform farmers about what USDA agency programs they will qualify for and how to get them.
What the rules will set out
All of the rules and regulations that apply to hemp are still being put in place. Producers in states that do not have a specific plan will be able to use the USDA plan if they don’t live in a state that prohibits hemp. The goal is to have the information posted on the 2019 Federal Register.
The plan will address:
- land to be used for planting;
- testing for THC levels;
- effective disposal of plants and products;
- compliance with law enforcement;
- annual inspections;
- submission of information to USDA; and
- certification that resources and personnel are available to carry out the practices and procedures described above.
Doors Now Open to Farmers
Farmers will now be able to apply for crop insurance. Up to $8.5 million in revenue can be protected. It’s expressly stated that hemp crops that test above the 0.3% threshold will not count as a loss of crop for insurance purposes.
Farmers can apply for different programs and qualify for grants. They can also get USDA certifications. The coveted ‘organic’ certification can now be applied to hemp products that qualify.
With hemp as a standard agricultural product, banks will be able to work with hemp producers. State and federal banks will be able to offer loans and other agricultural programs to help farmers get started.
Once the USDA releases its rules, other agencies can draft their own rules and define eligibility requirements for different programs. Safety net, conservation, farm loan, and disaster assistance will be among the programs that will be addressed by the FSA, NRCS, and RMA.