Free Minds & Free Markets

Congress Just Passed a Farm Bill That Legalizes Industrial Hemp. Other Than That, It's a Disaster.

The House Freedom Caucus calls it "a sprawling, cronyist agriculture bill."

GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS/NewscomGLEB GARANICH/REUTERS/NewscomThe House of Representatives just voted overwhelmingly in support of a conference committee version of the 2018 farm bill.

Combined with a similarly bipartisan vote in the Senate on Tuesday, that means the bill has cleared Congress and now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump. He is expected to sign it later this week.

The final House vote—by a count of 369-47—to approve the $867 billion legislation easily overcame opposition to the bill from the House Freedom Caucus, a collection of fiscally conservative lawmakers that's probably the closest thing Congress has to a libertarian voting bloc. In a statement issued earlier Wednesday, the House Freedom Cause decried the farm bill for combining "a sprawling, cronyist agriculture bill with continued funding for welfare that belongs at the state or local level."

Many of the headlines about the farm bill have focused on the inclusion of a provision that will legalize industrial hemp—a form of cannabis that contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana. Industrial hemp has a wide range of uses that includes making clothing, as a substitute for plastics, and as a additive to food and drinks.

As Reason's Mike Riggs put it yesterday in this space, "we should commend Congress for taking the bold step of legalizing a plant that cannot get you high but can be turned into really cool necklaces."

But, as Riggs also noted, we should condemn Congress for passing a farm bill that somehow manages to suck even more than most farm bills. The bill throws taxpayer money at farmers markets, funds five more years of federal nutritional programs, and abandons proposed changes to the food stamp program that would have imposed work requirements on some recipients—that's the welfare issue that the House Freedom Caucus was alluding to in its statement.

But probably the most appalling part of the farm bill is the widening of an agricultural subsidy program that's already been widely criticized for sending benefits to people who, by most measures, would not count as farmers. Congress rejected a proposal to limit those subsidies to individuals who live or work on a farm, and instead expanded eligibility to include farmer's cousins, nieces, and nephews. As Caroline Kitchens of the R Street Institute highlighted this week, the changes would allow "distant relatives and their spouses to each collect up to $125,000 a year in subsidies, so long as they fill out the necessary paperwork."

The bill is also another missed opportunity to deal with America's unsustainable levels of spending and government debt. The farm bill isn't the biggest driver of the nation's fiscal problems, but every billion dollars wasted on an unnecessary and counterproductive farm bill is a billion dollars that could have been trimmed from the deficit instead. If Congress doesn't even have a conversation about possible cuts—or if it rejects small changes to food stamps, for example—it only reinforces the view that a serious discussion about the budget is not close to happening soon.

"With trillion-dollar deficits just around the corner, it is disappointing that policymakers could not at least identify a few billion dollars to help combat our unsustainable fiscal situation," says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which favors balanced budgets.

But, hey, at least they finally legalized something that never should have been illegal in the first place.


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  • Rich||

    Is this the "Farm Bill" that deals with our festivities in Yemen?

  • SIV||

    Was it stripped out, or does center-right authoritarian-progressive reason no longer consider our foreign military entanglements s to be a "libertarian issue"?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Probably yes.

  • ||

    WTF are you talking about Boehm?!? This is a fucking watershed libertarian moment. The only way it could possibly be better is if the farm bill granted citizenship to anyone working in a hemp field. Libertarianism FTW!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Boehm also left off that evidently food stamp recipients will have some work requirements.

    If only a news outlet with a supposed Libertarians slant covered that juicy tidbit.

  • DenverJ||

    "...they finally legalized something that never should have been they never had the right to make illegal in the first place."

  • perlchpr||


    Congress doesn't have rights, it has delegated authority.

  • Jerryskids||

    Many of the headlines about the farm bill have focused on the inclusion of a provision that will legalize industrial hemp

    What's the over/under on the number of minutes until the Historical Industrial Growers of Hemp Society lobbyists start working on getting subsidies for hemp farmers?

  • SIV||

    How many negative minutes was "earlier this year"

  • perlchpr||

    Time to check to see if any of the cousins are still farmers, I guess.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What the hell is it with industrial hemp. You can't even get high off of it. Do they ban it because they can't tell the difference?

  • DenverJ||


  • MatthewSlyfield||

    You can't get high by smoking it directly, but it does contain low levels of THC. In theory you could process large quantities of industrial hemp to produce pure THC, though in much smaller quantities per unit input than you could running Marijuana through the same process.

  • perlchpr||

    If what I've heard was true and not just urban legend, it was due to the influence of the cotton industry not wanting the competition.

  • Conchfritters||

    I heard it was International Paper.

  • JFree||

    That's urban legend. It was made illegal because congresscritters are lazy and wanted to pander to their religious (Reefer Madness,etc were 'church' morality films) and racist (Hearst sold a ton of papers about Mexicans smoking dope and going crazy) voters. So tax it and either collect money from those undesirables - or drive it all out of business and protect the precious little children.

    Someone trying to parse the difference based on THC content - well that is probably a communist

  • perlchpr||

    OK. Thanks for the clarification. :)

  • JesseAz||

    Eric, change your name to chicken little.

  • Tom L.||

    This is great news for america with the new farm bill that's 5 years updated! This is great for american companies in the hemp/cbd spacing due to the new legalization. Many american companies like "CBDD", "HEMP" and big stock companies will benefit from this legalization of hemp/cbd in america, which is great! it will open new opportunities for new jobs, new foods, new ideas, and increase america's GDP output! the farm bill is surely making america great again!

  • Conchfritters||

    Parody? Big corporate farms love it. You can bet there is some cheese in there for ethanol too. Allowing hemp growing was probably the only good part of it.

  • Rockabilly||

    Where's my quill pen?

  • Eddy||

    Progs fucking love science

    "A pro-life group has released an unbelievable video of a mother signing a creepy lullaby that her baby "gave" her before she killed her baby in an abortion....

    The mother was one of several speakers at the so-called "blessing" of Your Choice Healthcare, a non-surgical abortion facility in Columbus, OH....

    "Before singing the "lullaby"—actually a Beatles song—the mother in the video explains she had visions and conversations with the baby in her womb before the abortion. These visions, according to the mother, culminated in the baby sending her a lullaby moments before she was killed to tell her mom, "It's okay.""

  • Moo Cow||

    That was in the farm bill?????

  • ||

    Creepy doesn't describe it. Morally repugnant is a better description. It feels like the end of the Libertarian Ground Hog day sketch where Austin realizes how much worse it is and it cuts to a Black Mirror title shot.

    It's a Beatles song, so the baby couldn't know it. And, in the Beatles song, it's (supposedly) romantic because the speaker is waiting for his true love. But she turns the lullaby around and, in doing so, she's admitting or agreeing with or romanticizing the idea that the baby has a consciousness or soul and that she's locking it away or in a box forever (or however long it takes her to realize that she loves a baby that she aborted). It's like a sick episode of Black Mirror except it's fucking real.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    OT Why are Reason and Volokh not covering this ?:

    " In his petition for Supreme Court review, Mr. Kisor submitted two questions:
    Whether the Court should overrule Auer v. Robbins and Bowles v. Seminole Rock and Sand Co.
    Alternatively, whether Auer deference should yield to a substantive canon of construction.
    The Court granted review on Question 1 only".
    "Auer and Bowles are the Supreme Court cases that "direct courts to defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of its own ambiguous regulation." It's the Little Satan that works with the Great Satan — Chevron deference — to fuel the explosive growth in the power of executive-branch agencies."

  • Jerryskids||

    Chevron deference is indeed the Great Satan of the Administrative State, but I imagine only Thomas and Gorsuch have reservations about Wilson's dream of an army of technocrats ordering society in a scientific manner. The rest of them are Satanists. Unaccountability to the electorate is not a bug, it's a feature.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "but I imagine only Thomas and Gorsuch have reservations about Wilson's dream of an army of technocrats ordering society in a scientific manner."

    You may well imagine wrong. They took the case for review. The Supreme Court's overall rate of reversal once cert has been granted is over 70%.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    From The National Law Review:
    " Justice Scalia also noted that Auer deference encourages agencies to write vague regulations that they can later tailor to impose additional requirements through their interpretations, thus skirting the important notice and comment process for agency rulemaking. Several other conservative Justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., and Justice Neil Gorsuch have expressed similar critiques Auer deference.[6] With the recent appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Auer and Seminole Rock may be on the chopping block."
    Brett could be the swing vote on this one. I'm not hopeful.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Reason staffers and Volokh follow the lead of propagandists and what Lefty propagandists wont admit is that the SCOTUS not taking the medicare case was not a win for that team. It means that the majority justice know that a better case is in the pipeline to undermine more socialism in one shot.

    Striking down Socialism takes too much time. Striking down entire government behavior that led to Socialist policy is much better and quicker.

    Undermining bureaucrat policy to expand Medicare allows all the federal judges to strike down every Medicare bill. Otherwise, the SCOTUS has to hear a single case and spend months addressing a single issue in narrow form.

    This is what Gorsuch is about. Striking down vast amounts of bureaucracy with a few well targeted changes in case law.

  • TangoDelta||

    So it's a bill with one good feature. That puts it ahead of about 99.44% of others bill by a long shot.

  • Echospinner||

    Short shot I think. It is just one more crop and could benefit farmers and other derivative industries.

    The rest of the bill is just more spending and government screwing around with business and taking away liberty in other ways.

    One step forward three steps back is not a victory.

  • perlchpr||

    Victory, no. But it's marginally better than just "three steps back, period."

  • mejortemporadapara||

    I can't believe this!

  • AbbyNixon||

    Why I can think only about this moment from South Park after reading?

  • ||

    Fiscally conservative is NOT libertarian, especially phony fiscal conservatism

    Does 'best available' always mean 'acceptable' or 'most preferred' to you or are you just reading the enhanced meaining in in this instance?

  • Remanufactured Engine||

    Surely, this is great for american companies in the hemp/cbd spacing due to the new legalization.


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