The 2018 Farm Bill is currently being created from the House and Senate versions. We must make sure bad provisions are eliminated, and good provisions stay in the final bill.
Congress is in the process of completing the 2018 Farm Bill, and it is imperative that we ensure that bad provisions that would increase the amount of pesticides we are exposed to are eliminated, and good provisions that would legalize CBD oil and help prevent organic fraud remain.
Over the last few months, we’ve been telling you about the process to create the 2018 Farm Bill, a huge piece of omnibus legislation that amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars of government spending. The House passes its bill, the Senate passes its bill, and then the two bills are “reconciled” into a final bill.
The House’s legislation included a number of troubling elements. One of the biggest problems with the House bill is that it would allow more pesticides to be sprayed on organic crops. There is a National List of approved and prohibited substances for organic production—some synthetic substances are allowed in organic farming, and some natural substances (like arsenic and strychnine) are prohibited. Items are added to the list through the National Organic Standards Board, which uses specific criteria (such as the effects on human health, effects on the ecosystem, availability of alternatives, etc.) to evaluate whether a substance can be used in organic agriculture.
The Farm Bill creates an expedited process for items to be added to the National List. If the FDA or the EPA determine there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from exposure to the pesticide, a separate task force can be convened to determine if the substance can be added to the National List. Considering that the EPA has, for instance, outrageously concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is safe, this provision opens up an avenue for all kinds of toxic pesticides to be added to the National List and sprayed on our organic food.
Not only does the House bill threaten organic integrity through increased use of pesticides; it preempts Americans at the city, county, and community level from restricting the use of pesticides. Other provisions would allow farmers to spray pesticides into water, including drinking water sources. Keep in mind our water is already being contaminated by pesticides. This has been linked to low birth weights, more breast cancer, and lower sperm counts. If the House removes protections that increase more pesticides being dumped in our water, these problems will get worse.
We must make sure these provisions are eliminated from the final bill.
The Senate version includes language legalizing hemp as an agricultural commodity and removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also defines cannabinoids (CBD) with a THC concentration of less than 0.3% as hemp, thus legalizing CBD oil that meets the 0.3% threshold. This is an important step in our campaign to fight for consumer access to CBD oil, a cheap, safe, effective, and non-addictive alternative to opioids for pain. There are other threats to consumer access to affordable CBD oil, notably GW Pharmaceutical’s new CBD drug for epilepsy which will carry a $32,500 per year price tag. The FDA has already said CBD is not a supplement based on GW’s investigational new drug (IND) application. Based on this finding, FDA could, if it so chooses, move to pull all CBD from the market. It is nonetheless encouraging that the government, via the Senate’s version of the farm bill, may remove at least one obstacle to affordable CBD.
As we mentioned previously, the Senate’s bill also includes provisions aimed at increasing oversight over the organic supply chain in an effort to curb the importation of fake organic grains that have been inundating the US market. As we’ve argued before, more regulations will not replace a will to enforce the law, which the USDA apparently lacks. But, more serious oversight over the supply chain might help prevent some degree of fraud, so these measures could arguably help consumers.
As the Congressional conference committee creates the final 2018 Farm Bill, it is imperative that they hear from constituents, about both the bad provisions that will endanger consumers that should be eliminated, and the good provisions that the bill should retain.