WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, held a hearing titled, “Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill.”
“I have talked repeatedly about two themes here in the Committee—providing certainty and predictability for farmers,” said Chairman Roberts. “However, this developing industry has great opportunity but—to be truthful—also has much uncertainty and risk for farmers.”
“These are cautions regarding this new crop, but let me be clear, I am extremely supportive of new opportunities for farmers. It is not often that an almost entirely new crop with this level of interest and market potential comes along. We even have facilities being built in Russell, Kansas.”
“Today, we are here to ask questions, learn from stakeholders, and better understand the multitude of issues surrounding hemp cultivation and this industry.”
To watch the hearing and read testimony, click here.
Click here to watch Chairman Roberts’ opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order.
Before beginning my remarks, both the Ranking Member and I received a letter regarding hemp production from the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, Inc. and there is a separate letter from the Drug Policy Alliance regarding the hemp felon ban that I submit for the record today. Without Objection.
Today’s hearing on hemp production first convenes the three federal agencies that directly regulate or affect hemp cultivation.
USDA is preparing a rule on hemp as directed by the Farm Bill. FDA is faced with issues that are relevant to processor demand for this crop. And, EPA will play an integral role in how producers raise this crop through the choices available to them. This hearing is designed to provide a forum for the agencies to discuss the decisions they are facing as well as stakeholder perspectives regarding the USDA rule in development.
On today’s second panel, the Committee will hear from those on the ground as they provide insight from the producer, industry and tribal regulatory perspectives.
I have talked repeatedly about two themes here in the Committee—providing certainty and predictability for farmers. However, this developing industry has great opportunity but—to be truthful—also has much uncertainty and risk for farmers.
Hemp was only recently removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Because of its historical legal problems, hemp agronomics suffer from a relatively short history of data, research and good farming practices compared to other new crops that we’ve seen ramp up towards more significant acreage in the past.
Farmers bear significant risk regarding hemp production regardless of their operation’s business model. A producer may share risk through a contract to grow hemp for a processor, with the processor providing an input, such as seed. Though there have been instances where some growers may not have always received timely payment by a processor. And, a different farmer may grow hemp to sell either the fiber, grain, seed hemp, or flower on the open market.
At present, there is not federal multi-peril crop insurance available to generally cover lost production costs. And, there is a need for production data to develop any revenue insurance policy.
These are cautions regarding this new crop, but let me be clear, I am extremely supportive of new opportunities for farmers. It is not often that an almost entirely new crop with this level of interest and market potential comes along. We even have facilities being built in Russell, Kansas.
As we all know, times are tough. Producers across the country have been experiencing increased costs and low commodity prices over the past several years. On top of that, many farmers dealt with Mother Nature’s wrath this spring as flooding prevented many from getting a crop, or a quality crop, in the ground.
These economic conditions drive further margin erosion and financial stress for many operations. However, producers and agricultural stakeholders continue to look for ways to adapt to the downturn in agricultural prices. Many are positioning themselves for longer-term opportunities that might warrant further investment or provide an additional profit opportunity.
Today, we are here to ask questions, learn from stakeholders, and better understand the multitude of issues surrounding hemp cultivation and this industry.
I support the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill in a farmer-friendly manner, and hemp is no exception. And, needless to say, based upon my history with the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act – or FIFRA – I strongly support the development of the data and information needed to provide this crop with conventional crop protection tools.
But, there are complex questions in this space. Is hemp the crop of a generation? What will this industry look like in 10 years? I do not know the answers to these questions, and I am not sure if anyone actually can answer them.
However, witnesses testifying on both panels today have valuable insight to share. Facilitating the flow of accurate information regarding this new endeavor—especially as it relates to the pending decisions by the federal agencies—will hopefully be of use to the agencies, the industry, and in the end, the farmers upon whom much of this success will be built.
I now recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the hearing titled Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill.
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today, and welcome to our witnesses.
The 2018 Farm Bill includes many new opportunities that strengthen the diversity of American agriculture. We know something about that in Michigan, where we grow a wider variety of crops than any other state but one.
One of the most anticipated opportunities we included in the Farm Bill is the newly legalized production of hemp.
This exciting new opportunity is actually part of a great American tradition. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all grew hemp. During World War II, the USDA encouraged farmers to grow hemp in order to produce ropes for the U.S. Navy.
Michigan’s own Henry Ford saw great potential in hemp and experimented with using it in bio-based manufacturing. In fact, hemp used to be so prevalent in my state, they say you would see it growing on the side of the road while driving down Interstate 94 in Southeast Michigan.
This new old crop is creating exciting opportunities for farmers and the greater supply chain.
Hemp products are already popular in the U.S. marketplace. Nationally it is estimated that U.S. hemp retail sales are at more than $700 million annually, and this market is expected to grow at a 10% to 20% rate.
According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, more than 30,000 acres have been registered for hemp production. Over 700 growers and processors have received a license to produce hemp and derived products.
Michigan farmers can cultivate hemp seeds to make new food products with whole hemp seeds, seed protein, and hemp seed oil. Innovators are looking at ways to use industrial hemp in biomanufacturing. There is exciting potential to create Michigan-made products like biodegradable water bottles, construction materials, clothing, and even cement to improve our roads.
Because hemp is a new crop in Michigan, more research is needed to provide information to producers on the right soils and seeds, pest management techniques, and other best practices. In order to support growers and processors, we need to conduct aggressive research.
Just last week, this committee discussed the concerning loss of researchers at the Agriculture Department, driven by the relocation of two USDA research agencies. I mentioned that the USDA is losing irreplaceable expertise, including one of the nation’s leading experts on hemp. Instead of throwing away knowledge, the Department should be doing everything it can to continue important work that will help our farmers be successful.
In addition to research, farmers need access to adequate financing to cover the high cost of seeds and new equipment. It is also critical that entrepreneurs have capital to build the infrastructure needed to process hemp, which would create exciting new business opportunities in rural communities.
We also need to ensure that these new opportunities in hemp production are fair and equitable for all farmers. Given the USDA’s troubling history of discrimination, the Department must be proactive to ensure socially-disadvantaged farmers have the same opportunity to get a license to grow hemp. It’s also critical that there is fair testing and enforcement of harvested hemp across the board.
With any change, there are always questions that need to be addressed. There are still many outstanding federal and local issues related to CBD oil, risk management tools, and testing methods for harvested hemp crops.
I look forward to hearing from our panels of experts to explore some of those questions and learn more about the implementation of these important provisions.
–Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
For more articles concerning industrial hemp, click here.