disaster. While it ended direct farm subsidies, it replaced them with crop insurance subsidies—which may end up being more costly. It kept in place inane and costly sugar tariffs and duplicative catfish inspection programs. And it proposed to spend nearly fifty percent more than the previous Farm Bill.The 2014 Farm Bill was a
The bright spot in the Farm Bill—a tiny seed of good news—was that Congress saw fit to include an amendment that would loosen the federal government's idiotic stranglehold on cultivating hemp.
The 2014 hemp amendment was introduced with bi-partisan sponsorship and passed with bi-partisan support.
But now the DEA has thrown a wrench into the law. It's held up a shipment of seeds destined for Kentucky, and forced the state to sue the federal government in order to seek their release.
"For weeks, we have dealt with unnecessary government bureaucracy, federal officials unwilling to discuss the law or answer questions, and delay... after delay... after delay," writes Kentucky attorney general commissioner of agriculture James Comer, who filed suit against the federal government on behalf of the state, in an op-ed this week.
Why has hemp caused a battle between states and the federal government?
Hemp has been used used since before recorded history to make fuel, fiber, and food. But it's also illegal to grow anywhere in the United States thanks to its relationship and resemblance to marijuana. But federal law does permit hemp to be used in foods. And there's a large and growing market for hemp foods.
As I wrote last year, "Amazon.com sells nearly 250 different hemp foods—including products like hemp waffles."
While both marijuana and hemp can make one crave waffles (though for different reasons), hemp doesn't get you high. And yet—thanks to the domestic ban—all of the hemp used in foods (and other products made with hemp) is grown, cultivated, and processed outside the United States.
"Hemp and hemp seeds are still considered a controlled substance and cannot be imported—meaning farmers in states that have industrial hemp laws on the books have no access to the crop," reported Politico after the Farm Bill's passage earlier this year.
The 2014 Farm Bill amendment was billed as a game changer.
"The market opportunities for hemp are incredibly promising-ranging from textiles and health foods to home construction and even automobile manufacturing," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, in a statement issued earlier this year after Pres. Obama signed the bill into law. "This is not just a boon to U.S. farmers, this is a boon to U.S. manufacturing industries as well."
But hold on. The Farm Bill provision is incredibly limited. It permits only "states that have legalized hemp farming to begin growing this useful crop for research purposes." And by "states" that means "states"—rather than individuals or private businesses. That's because the law permits only state governments—rather than individuals—to grow hemp.
As if that weren't bad enough, the law contains even more qualifiers.
In fact, it allows only "an institution of higher education... or a State department of agriculture [to] grow or cultivate industrial hemp."