Every five or so years Congress renews a largely bipartisan ‘Farm Bill’ which is updated to address ever changing issues and needs in the agricultural sector. Topics addressed include: nutrition, conservation, farming, agricultural trade, energy, and forestry.
The 2014-2018 Farm Bill expired in October, however, Congress was able to continue funding the program while a new version was finalized.
President Trump had been pushing for stricter work requirements for the SNAP program, commonly known as ‘Food Stamps’ with this update. According to CNN, those requirements were left out.
The $867 billion bill includes billions in farm subsidies over 5 years. The bill also expands subsidies to distant relatives of farmers, bringing harsh criticism from some republicans. “I’m very disappointed the conferees decided to expand the loopholes on farm subsidies,” Senator Grassley said of the subsidy increase.
The retaliatory tariffs from China has caused a 97% reduction in soybean exports from the United States with other crop exports also suffering. Subsidies are seen as an easy fix without addressing the underlying trade problem.
The Agricultural Department also announced a revision to the work waiver program for SNAP, despite the measure being rejected by the Farm Bill negotiators. Currently, able-bodied individuals between the age of 18 and 49 are requirement to work at least 20-hours per week or participate in job training to be eligible for SNAP. People who fail this are only eligible for 3-months of food stamps per 3-years. States with unemployment above 10% or areas with ‘weak job availability’ can waive this requirement. This altercation would replace the work requirement waiver for states with unemployment of 10% or higher with stricter requirements. Waivers will now only be issued in cities where unemployment is above 7% and must be approved by the governor.
Some increasingly popular changes have been made under the Farm Bill itself. CBD and Hemp are now legal. Hemp is a cousin of the more popular, and partially legal, marijuana that does not cause psychedelic experiences. In other words, marijuana gets you high, hemp does not.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a new health trend originating from hemp that can be found in a large number of foods, beverages, and other health products.
The bill removes cannabis with THC levels lower than 0.3% from the Controlled Substances Act and gives regulating powers to both the USDA, and FDA.
Though this legalizes it on a federal level, states are still at liberty to regulate it as they see fit. Just as marijuana is still a ‘controlled substance,’ some states choose to legalize it.
CBD has grown in recent years to a $2 billion US industry. Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy estimates the global market to be $22 billion. With the gates of American capitalism and the affinity of this generation towards all things hemp, those numbers are sure to grow rapidly.
Hemp also has uses in clothing, plastic, food, paper, building materials, and fuel. This pot friendly congress and administration has opened the door to full blown marijuana legalization in the coming years.