President Donald Trump has signed a bill into law in an attempt to help the farming and agricultural economy, including legalizing industrial hemp.
The Agricultural and Nutrition Act of 2018, nicknamed the Farm Bill, has a cost of $867 billion and was signed by Trump on Dec. 20, according to the bill’s congressional summary.
The bill, which would not be authorized until 2023, would make industrial hemp legal and allow farmers to grow and sell the crop in its expanding market.
The bill, also known as House Resolution 2, provides crop insurance and nutrition assistance to farmers, as well as increases the loan limits for farm ownership and operating loans, according to the bill’s congressional summary.
The bill would also allow financial assistance for substance use disorder treatment services, make broadband applications for rural, underserved areas a high priority and create a program called the Community Connect Grant Program, where grants are given to entities to finance broadband service in rural areas, according to the bill’s congressional summary.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Montross, who represents all of the Tidewater localities in the 1st Congressional District, said that this bill paves the way for broadband access and addressing the opioid crisis in rural areas such as his district, according to a news release from his congressional office.
“This bill helps rural communities to combat the opioid crisis and improves broadband delivery services in rural areas to the unserved,” Wittman said in the news release. “As major priorities of mine, I am thrilled that these provisions were included, and I was proud to vote for them.”
The House and Senate had different approaches to cutting food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for farmers and workers. In the House’s version of the bill, states would’ve had to impose work requirements for food stamps on workers ages 49-59 and those who are parents with children ages 6 through 12. The final version of the bill does not include cuts to food stamps, according to the bill’s congressional summary.
Trump said he is looking into stricter work requirements for those who are using the food stamp program, according to The Washington Post.
The legislation reaches out to other areas in the farming community and would allow Native American tribes to be eligible for supplemental agricultural disaster assistance programs.
Virginia Farm Bureau national affair coordinator Ben Rowe said the bill gives farmers greater flexibility.
“This allows them to choose programs to fit their individual operations, as well as allows prices and yields to be adjusted based on production history and global markets,” Rowe said. “This new five-year bill provides of layer of certainty at a time of complicated trade relations, increasing tariffs and low commodity prices.”
Industrial hemp is seen as a promising new crop for Virginia and this bill expands the existing industrial hemp program in the state, according to Rowe.
“The existing hemp program in the commonwealth has allowed farmers to plant and process hemp crops, but the changes in the Farm Bill clear the way to greatly expand this program,” Rowe said.
Rowe said he doesn’t think the farm bill hurts farmers or agriculturalists, but like any piece of legislation, there is always compromise as they can’t always get 100 percent of what they need.
“In future bills, it would be helpful to see additional funding for conservation programs that help farmers meet water quality and Chesapeake Bay reservation goals,” Rowe said.
Wittman said this bill helps provide security for farmers and agriculturalists.
“Food security is national security,” Wittman said in the news release. “This bill keeps family farmers and foresters that live right here in the 1st District in mind by providing them certainty and stability as they continue to provide food and fiber to markets across the world. Agriculture and forestry is one of the most important economies in the Commonwealth, employing over 442,000. This Farm Bill provides solid support for our rural economies and provides low cost foods to consumers.”
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 87-13 on Dec. 11 and the House with a vote of 369 to 47 on Dec. 12.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter