2018 Farm Bill Heads Closer to Law During Lame-Duck Session
The long-awaited 2018 Farm Bill has nearly made its journey around Capitol Hill and is on the precipice of becoming a law. In our recent update, following the midterm elections, we mentioned Congress’s lame-duck session was about to take place. Let’s clarify what the lame-duck session means for the 2018 Farm Bill and outline the necessary steps for passing a piece of legislation, such as the Farm Bill, into law during the lame-duck Congressional session.
A lame-duck session is when Congress reconvenes during even-numbered years after a general election has taken place. The lame-duck session takes place in order to finish negotiations on pending legislation. During this session, representatives and Congress members who have lost midterm election races still hold their seats before their successors take over the following year. Because the Farm Bill conference committee failed to reach a compromise on the bill prior to the September 30 deadline, 2018 Farm Bill negotiations have continued into the lame-duck session.
What’s Happened So Far
We know that food stamp provision, insurance for farmers, and environmental and conservation laws have delayed the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Now, in its final stages of passage, it’s helpful to recap the journey the bill has taken and the steps needed for it to become law.
In July, the House and Senate each passed their respective versions of the same bill. The Senate version included federal legalization of industrial hemp and hemp by-products, while the House bill fell silent on hemp legalization. A portion of the Farm Bill conference committee was appointed by House Speakers Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), appointed the remaining members. McConnell appointed himself to the committee out of a stated interest in passing the Farm Bill with the Hemp Farming Act—a proposed law he co-sponsored—included.
Debate over specific issues within the committee has gone back and forth, including quarrels between parties over SNAP provisions and conservation stances. Further delays have stemmed from outside political events, including the Supreme Court nominations.
Due to these debates and delays, the conference committee failed to pass a bill by the September 30 deadline. Since then, the Senate and House agreed to extend Farm Bill provisions through the remainder of the year so farmers and welfare recipients could still receive benefits while the bill negotiations continued.
Then came the midterms, where focus detracted from the Farm Bill to political campaigns. The Democrats took the House, which is a positive for future hemp-friendly legislation, but that political overtaking does not influence the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The conference committee went back into session following the midterms with high hopes the 2018 Farm Bill would pass despite ongoing partisan debates. The four leaders of the committee, Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Colin Peterson (D-MN) met behind closed doors to iron out the differences in the two bills with optimistic intentions of finalizing the bill before the calendar year ends. The committee reached a tentative deal on November 28, which means the process is almost complete!
On the tentative deal, the Farm Bill conference committee leaders released a joint statement that reads,
“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill. We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as CBO scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new Farm Bill to America as quickly as possible.”
What Are We Waiting For?
Now that we’ve summarized the last few months, what steps remain before the 2018 Farm Bill becomes law? In case you’ve forgotten your Schoolhouse Rock lessons, several key events need to take place before a bill becomes a law.
With a bill compromise set, members of the House and Senate conference committee will put the final bill to a vote. Passage within the conference is almost certain, as leaders within the committee have worked closely with their respective parties to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Once the bill makes it out of committee, it will go back to both the House and the Senate for a final vote. If it passes the House and Senate, the bill will then move to the White House for the president’s signature.
Even though the passage of the Farm Bill—including the Hemp Farming Act’s hemp legalization—looks promising, it still has a few more hurdles to clear before becoming law. Thankfully, there has been no debate over the hemp amendment. The legalization of hemp has received no committee criticism and has support from leaders in both parties. With the new Farm Bill conference committee deal in place, approval by the House and Senate is more than likely.
What Can You Do
Call your Representatives and urge them to vote YES on a Farm Bill that includes the hemp amendment! Follow the link below to access Hemp Roundtable’s smart search. Enter your information to find out if your representative is currently in the conference committee voting on hemp. Call to remind them that America sees hemp legalization as a top priority!
- “Farm Bill Update.” U.S. Hemp Roundtable, November 2018. https://hempsupporter.com/farm-bill-update-2/
- “Hemp’s Hearing on the Hill.” U.S. Hemp Roundtable, September 2018. https://hempsupporter.com/hemps-hearing-on-the-hill/
- “Republicans Fear They’re Squandering Lame-Duck.” Politico, November 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/28/senate-republicans-lame-duck-mueller-criminal-justice-reform-farm-bill-1019810
- “Congress’s Lame-Duck Session.” N.Y. Times, November 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/us/politics/congress-lame-duck-shutdown.html
- “Lawmakers Reach Tentative Farm Bill Deal…” Washington Post, November 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/lawmakers-reach-tentative-farm-bill-deal-after-months-long-impasse/2018/11/28/72089d48-f344-11e8-bc79-68604ed88993_story.html?utm_term=.c8e2650fd873