WASHINGTON — The final 2018 U.S. Farm Bill could be voted on next week. The bill would legalize hemp cultivation and could be a catalyst for explosive growth in a emerging industry that some analysts forecast could top $20 billion by 2022.
The anticipated bill would remove industrial hemp from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, making it a lawful agricultural commodity. The hemp legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.), earlier this year also allows states to become the primary regulators of hemp cultivation, enables researchers to apply for federal grants and makes the crop eligible for crop insurance.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said this week that he’s optimistic that lawmakers can pass a new farm bill next week after a delay caused by the break for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush.
Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, who’s expected to become chairman next year, was heavily involved in negotiations that produced an agreement in principle last week among the top committee leaders in both the House and Senate. He said at a news conference that the final bill will get filed Monday, that he expects the House will take it up next Wednesday or Thursday, and that the Senate could then take it up the next day.
“With any luck it’ll be out, it’ll be passed by the end of next week. But knowing how things go around here, it may drag into the week after,” Peterson said. “But I think we are going to get this thing done before the end of the year.”