Rural Kansans respond to farm bill awaiting president's signature

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"Getting a pro-agriculture, pro-farmer farm bill to the president has been the goal all along, and I'm glad we're one step closer to delivering on it", said Sen.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the farm bill on Wednesday, capping months of acrimonious debate to finalize the legislation funding the nation's $867 billion food and agriculture programs.

The House voted 369-47 to agree to a Farm Bill compromise that includes redefining cannabis plants with no more than 0.3% THC. The final bill sailed through the House and Senate on Thursday by unanimous consent. Village Farms is now working with lobbyists in Texas to have hemp removed from Texas' controlled substance list in the upcoming early-2019 legislative session.

One topic especially important to Kansas farmers is crop insurance.

The 807-page bill also offers improved crop insurance access for established farmers as well as novice farmers and offers financial assistance for farmers transitioning from conventional to organic farming - it also quadruples federal investment for organic research. Hemp-based CBD wellness products-a category that didn't exist five years ago-already account for almost a quarter of the domestic hemp market, and the Hemp Business Journal predicts they will account for almost $650 million worth of sales by 2022, becoming the single largest sector of the hemp market. "Now, hemp will be able to be legally grown in America, to the economic benefit of consumers and farmers in OR and nationwide".

The legislation has also been split with funding for food stamps as well, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). "The farmers would like to get that".

"It does absolutely nothing to provide Congressional guidance to resolving the Trump administration's trade war that threatens generational harm in the agricultural economy", he said.

Aaron Rydell at Salt Creek Hemp on the Western Slope outside of Collbran Colo.
       Michael Sakas  CPR News
Aaron Rydell at Salt Creek Hemp on the Western Slope outside of Collbran Colo. Michael Sakas CPR News

Nevertheless, there will be more money for farmers using advanced conservation practices, such as growing cover crops (reimbursed at 125 percent of the farmer's costs) and resource conserving crop rotations and advanced grazing practices (both at 150 percent of costs).

Because it's almost impossible to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana without a lab test, the growing of hemp plants will continue to be tightly regulated, said Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a national industry group.

In an interview with VTDigger, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said passing the bill gives stability to farmers in Vermont and across the country for the next five years. When I visited a hemp farm mid-harvest, I saw firsthand the enormous potential of this diverse crop under the limited 2014 farm bill.

"Things change", says Mr. Moore of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Blunt said that a 1995 provision for a "cooling off" period has also been eliminated in the new agreement.

That is the reason the new bill combines some existing export-promotion programs.

This "will encourage new opportunities for struggling farmers and their families, news products... and new jobs", he said. "It gives us some hope" that the U.S. can begin to make up for the potential loss of Chinese markets.

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