Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to make extra certain that industrial hemp farmers qualify for federal crop insurance, so he’s working to insert language into a disaster spending bill to clear up the issue.
A similar provision was already included in the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp and was signed into law by the president in December. But with some farmers still uncertain about whether they will qualify for the benefit, McConnell is reportedly planning to take the added precaution of adding similar language to spending legislation meant to allocate funds for areas of the country that have experienced disasters like California’s 2018 wildfires.
To clarify, per aides involved, hemp was already covered for crop insurance in the Farm Bill — McConnell's goal here is to eliminate any uncertainty and ensure that coverage will be available in time for crop year 2020
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) May 13, 2019
It remains to be seen whether the proposed language will further complicate negotiations over the $17 billion bill, which has already been subject to protracted debate after the White House called for border funding to be included.
The hope is that the adding the hemp crop insurance provision will provide clarity to farmers and ensure that they’re able to access the benefit ahead of the 2020 planting season, according to the Washington Post, which reported that it had seen a draft version of the new language McConnell is pushing.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said that his department is aiming to finalize required regulations for hemp by the 2020 season as well.
McConnell has taken several steps to make sure that the hemp legalization provision that he fought for in the Farm Bill is implemented quickly and effectively, going so far as to say that he’d be willing to introduce standalone legislation to resolve any “glitches” in the rollout.
In April, he and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to federal financial regulators explaining that the wide-ranging agriculture bill removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act and requesting guidance to banks to clear up any questions about access to financial services for hemp businesses.
Photo courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.