Congress might not pass the 2023 Farm Bill until 2024, a leading Senate Republican recently indicated.
Such a delay would mean more waiting – and more uncertainty – for the U.S. hemp industry.
That includes sellers and manufacturers of products containing controversial intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC.
Congress has been gridlocked for most of the past month while the drama to select a new speaker for the House of Representatives played out.
Republicans on Wednesday elected relatively unknown Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, meaning legislative action might return to normal soon.
But that decision might not leave enough time to pass a new Farm Bill before an end-of-year deadline, according to Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.
Since federal lawmakers need to first pass a spending bill to avoid a looming Nov. 17 government shutdown, other business such as the Farm Bill will have to wait.
That could mean a one-year extension on the Farm Bill will be necessary, Boozman told a meeting of Missouri farmers, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Such an extension has precedent. Congress did not pass the 2013 Farm Bill until February 2014.
Updated and passed every five years, the sprawling Farm Bill addresses agricultural subsidies and food stamps – and, in recent years, hemp manufacturing and production.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30, legalized hemp production nationwide.
It also led to subsequent booms for hemp growers and manufacturers: first with CBD and then with intoxicating “novel” cannabinoids derived from hemp and CBD.
Those include hemp-derived delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, delta-10 THC and others.
Hemp lobbyists have been urging Congress to add clear hemp-derived cannabinoid product safety and testing standards to the new Farm Bill.
Supporters say these products are federally legal and offer some form of cannabis access in states with no medical or adult-use marijuana legalization, such as Idaho and Indiana.
Critics, including many in the state-regulated cannabis industry, say hemp-derived alternatives – sold online or at unscrupulous merchants without age verification or quality controls – thwart legalization’s promise of safe, tested product.
Many states have moved to restrict or ban outright hemp-derived products.
And product makers have sued to overturn several state laws restricting hemp products.