Farm Bill

FDA nominee to face questions on issues from vaping to salmon
It might be hard for Stephen Hahn to win over Democrats because of a pending White House vaping decision

Stephen Hahn, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, faces a confirmation hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (Courtesy The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)

When President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration appears for the first time before a Senate panel on Wednesday, he’ll likely face tough questions about some policy issues that he may not have thought much about previously.

While the nominee, Stephen Hahn, is a highly regarded cancer doctor who has helped lead a research hospital with a budget nearly the size of the FDA’s, the confirmation hearing will be a reminder of the breadth of the agency’s work.

USDA's hemp rules open door to states to set up regulations
McConnell led drive to legalize the crop

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue calls hemp a new opportunity for farmers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday his department was opening "a new economic opportunity for America’s farmers” with the issuance of long-awaited rules governing legal hemp production and a path for state and tribal governments to submit regulatory plans for review.

The USDA is setting the minimum rules, allowing states to impose more restrictive requirements. One official said the department would "test drive" the interim rule in the 2020 growing season and then adopt a final rule.

Pot restrictions add risks and costs to hemp growing
Cannabis cousins hemp, marijuana are often hard to tell apart

Hemp flower on display at the Tennessee Grown booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., on Sept. 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hemp and marijuana, both cannabis plants, are hard to tell apart. The average person and law enforcement officer can struggle to tell the difference in their leaves, buds and flowers. The two plants differ in their levels of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s high. Hemp typically has less than 1 percent, but marijuana can have THC levels up to 30 percent.

More important for many in the hemp industry, however, is a federal law that puts the THC ceiling for legal hemp at 0.3 percent of its dry weight. States can order the destruction of a grower’s entire hemp crop if testing finds the THC exceeds that maximum. The THC ceiling is designed to draw a clear line between the cannabis cousins, hemp and marijuana.

Hemp industry growth hints at potential field of dreams
“Maybe, just maybe, hemp could be a really big deal sometime in the future,” McConnell says

An attendee stops at the Hemp Magazine booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., on Sept. 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Mitch McConnell saw a potential replacement for tobacco in 2014, as the federal program to buy out tobacco farmers was ending. McConnell got provisions into a farm bill allowing states to license and monitor hemp production. The Kentucky Republican, now as majority leader, followed through in 2018, using another farm bill to take hemp off the controlled substances list.

Kentucky in 2019 is one of the leading hemp producers. Vote Hemp, an industry advocacy organization, says the state has licensed an estimated 60,000 acres for production. That’s still a fraction of the 58 million acres of tobacco the Agriculture Department forecast Kentucky would harvest in 2019, but it’s almost 12 percent of the Vote Hemp’s estimate of the U.S. acreage licensed to hemp.

‘Enter hemp with extreme caution,’ Kentucky farmer tells Senate panel
Agriculture Committee hears about the lows induced by hemp production

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he hopes a new generation of Kentucky farmers finds hemp just as lucrative a crop as tobacco once was. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Farmers facing low prices and mired in trade uncertainty see hemp as the next big cash crop, but a Kentucky veteran of six hemp harvests warned it’s a demanding plant to produce.

“Enter hemp with extreme caution,” Brian Furnish told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

Road ahead: All eyes on the budget and debt limit deal, except when Mueller testifies
House to tackle border issues, while Senate will confirm Defense secretary, clear 9/11 compensation bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to clear the debt deal this week before the chamber departs for the August recess. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

All eyes this week will be on whether House lawmakers are able to pass a deal to raise the debt limit and set spending levels for the next two years before leaving for the August recess on Friday.

That is except, of course, when former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seizes all the attention when he testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

The USDA violated rules trying to move agencies out of D.C., new House report finds
Rules including reprogramming department funds and not seeking public opinion were violated, a House Appropriations report says

Department of Agriculture sign in Washington, DC (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In its drive to move two research-related agencies out of Washington, the USDA violated rules for reprogramming department funds, never sought public opinion and ignored appropriators’ request for a cost-benefit analysis, according to a House report released Monday.

The report, which will accompany the draft fiscal 2020 spending bill for the Agriculture Department, offers background on why lawmakers included provisions in the bill to bar the use of appropriated funds for moving the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Hemp concerns and trade jitters top agriculture appropriations hearing
The Agriculture Department’s request includes cuts to research, rural housing and international humanitarian food programs

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue takes his seat to testify during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate appropriators had trade woes and the promise of industrial hemp on their minds Thursday as they sought assurances from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of better times for farmers in their states.

Perdue testified before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on the president’s $15.7 billion request for discretionary funding for the Agriculture Department. The request is more than $4.2 billion lower than the enacted level for fiscal 2019 and includes cuts to research, rural housing, international humanitarian food programs and other areas popular with lawmakers.

Last year’s food stamps battle was contentious. This year Trump upped the ante
The Trump administration budget wants food stamp recipients under 65 to have work requirements

Copies of President Donald Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020 run through the binding process at the Government Publishing Office in Washington on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration would expand the pool of adult food stamp recipients subject to work, job-training or community service requirements to include people up to age 65, according to fiscal 2020 budget documents released Monday.

The proposal is broader than provisions in last year’s contentious House farm bill that called for applying work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, to able-bodied adults between the ages 18 and 59 with no dependents or with children older than 6. The proposal would have raised the age limit for adults subject to the work requirement from age 49.

Disaster aid fix would open spigot for cherry growers
The provision on its face strains the definition of ‘emergency,’ but Washington cherry growers are smarting from China’s retaliatory tariffs

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., says the trade war has led to some $96 million in losses to sweet cherry producers for the 2018 growing season. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Talk about a sweetener.

An arcane provision moving through Congress as part of must-pass disaster aid legislation would let farmers earning more than $900,000 on average for the past three years qualify for President Donald Trump’s $12 billion program compensating producers for trade-related losses.