For three hours today, the House/Senate Conference Committee for the 2018 Farm Bill met for the first time, and hemp was on the agenda.
Of course, many, many other issues were addressed. Every conference committee member – 9 Senators, 49 Congressman – made an introductory statement, introducing their priorities as the two chambers resolve the differences between their two Farm Bills. But there are some key takeaways:
- Three prominent Members of Congress spoke very positively about hemp. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke forcefully about the need for permanent legalization. Longtime hemp champion Congressman James Comer explained his strong support for the issue. And in a bit of surprise, powerful House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte devoted much of his time to lauding the hemp provisions. Goodlatte has been a strong supporter all year, but it was quite encouraging to see him make this issue such a priority.
- No one spoke against hemp. Nobody. While a few junior Members have expressed concerns about hemp behind the scenes, none mentioned that during the hearing. Look at how far we’ve come – now speaking against hemp is an unpopular political position!
- There were some sharp comments on both sides of the most controversial issue – whether or not to add work requirements to the SNAP food stamp program. It is clear that the two sides are still far apart and much compromise needs to happen.
- BUT, nearly every speaker spoke on the same theme – the need to get this bill passed, and get it passed before the 2014 Farm Bill expires on September 30. Several farm-expert Congressman spoke passionately about farmers’ need for certainty, that they must make this deadline so that farmers know when to plant, harvest, and process their products.