Senate panel OKs farm bill, but House wants work provisions
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has approved a modest, bipartisan rewrite of federal farm and nutrition programs. That sidesteps a fight for now but sets up a clash with House Republicans intent on beefing up work requirements for food stamps.
The legislation, approved by a bipartisan 20-1 vote, would renew farm safety-net programs such as subsidies for crop insurance, farm credit, and land conservation. It also would extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps, which helps feed more than 40 million people.
Declaring he has "won the argument" on hemp, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate is on track for a vote to legalize the crop that comes from the same plant that produces marijuana.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to consider the farm bill Wednesday. It will include a provision to remove hemp from a list of Schedule I controlled substances, making it legal for farmers to grow and sell the crop. Although far from becoming law, the step is noted progress for an idea that has faced staunch opposition among conservative lawmakers.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced an amendment to the farm bill on Tuesday that would require the Justice Department to “modify the definition of the term ‘hemp’ and make a determination as to whether cannabidiol [CBD] should be a controlled substance” under federal law.
The language would cause a political setback to marketers of cannabidiol (CBD) in dietary supplements and other products.
The National Hemp Association (NHA) said the amendment would "devastate the industry’s efforts to promote full legalization of hemp and hemp products".
"We've won the argument that this is not about marijuana," McConnell said about hemp. "Now we just need to pass the law. And I'm in a uniquely well-situated position to make that happen."
The panels approval of the farm bill comes as farm country is struggling with low prices and uncertainty in agricultural trade markets.
The legislation was drafted along traditionally bipartisan lines to ease its passage through the closely divided Senate, where Democrats have significant influence over most legislation.