The passage of the bill would allow hemp to become America’s newest agricultural commodity nationwide and would ensure the profitability of farming operations for generations to come.

The passage of the bill would allow hemp to become America’s newest agricultural commodity nationwide and would ensure the profitability of farming operations for generations to come.

The U.S. Senate passed the legislation that includes Virginia priorities championed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA). Specifically, the 2018 Senate Farm Bill includes a Warner-Kaine sponsored measure to legalize industrial hemp production called the ‘Hemp Farming Act’: a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as an agricultural commodity. States would be given authority to regulate hemp, and hemp researchers will be able to apply for USDA grants. Hemp farmers would also be eligible to collect crop insurance under this provision.

Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care. Hemp, the non-psychoactive variety of Cannabis sativa L., has more than 25,000 product applications.

The expectation is that this bill would finally end the outdated ban that has held farmers back from participating in the industrial hemp market, allow states to decide the best way to regulate this emerging industry, and give farmers access to critical federal support to protect their investment. Legalizing industrial hemp production will bring new businesses to Virginia and create jobs. In addition, this legislation includes measures to continue successful Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, expand farm conservation, and preserve some of America’s most cherished public lands.

Every five years, Congress passes legislation known as the “Farm Bill,” which sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. The bill currently in place expires September 30. The Farm Bill 2014, signed into law by Barack Obama, includes a provision that permits states to legalize hemp cultivation by agricultural departments and universities for pilot programs and research. More than 30 states have since passed hemp-related laws. Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research in recent years. However, Congress must act in order to legalize hemp production for commercial purposes.

As the House passes its Farm Bill, the Senate will soon vote on its own hemp-legalizing version. Congress has historically not struggled to pass farm bills, this year there remain major differences between the two measures and will ultimately have to be merged.

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