The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill is a vast improvement on the House version, with provisions to protect organics and CBD.
The Senate recently released its version of the Farm Bill. For advocates of natural health, it represents a significant improvement over the House’s version of the legislation. It legalizes CBD oil and the growth of hemp; leaves out concerning provisions from the House Farm Bill regarding the regulation of pesticides, such as language that would have preempted local communities from banning pesticides and allowed more pesticides to be sprayed on organic crops; and the bill tries to address the influx of fake organic crops. We must tell our members of Congress to follow the Senate’s lead.
The best news in the Senate’s Farm Bill relates to CBD oil. The bill includes language that would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove 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.
Note, though, that this would only remove one of the two major threats to consumer access to CBD oil. Recall that a pharmaceutical company, GW Pharmaceuticals, has developed a CBD-based drug for a rare form of childhood epilepsy—which just received FDA approval. The FDA has said that CBD is not a supplement because GW filed an investigational new drug (IND) application on CBD before it was sold as a supplement—an agency position that we are fighting. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging that the government is proposing to remove one of the major hurdles to affordable CBD oil.
The Senate bill leaves out bad provisions that would have increased our exposure to pesticides. You can read more about those provisions in our previous coverage, but here are the highlights. The House bill included language that makes it easier to add pesticides to the list of substances that can be used on organic crops, allows farmers to spray pesticides into water (including drinking water sources), and preempts local communities from restricting the use of pesticides.
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. Part of the problem seems to be that, while US companies importing organic products from overseas must verify that the product comes from a supplier with a valid USDA organic certificate, there isn’t a guarantee that the farm the product came from is running a legitimate organic operation. The language in the Farm Bill would require US firms importing organic goods to collect and maintain information on the product, rather than just the foreign supplier. It’s unclear whether this will really address the problem; 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.
Of course, the Senate bill includes billions of dollars in government handouts to support the growth of wheat, corn, soy, and other commodity crops—money that could be better spent supporting clean, healthy food. As we said in our coverage of the House Farm Bill, we don’t like the government picking winners and losers, but if subsidies are going to be handed out, it just makes sense not to give billions to support foods that make us unhealthy and sick.
We’re glad that the Senate bill would legalize CBD, leaves out provisions that would have expanded the use of toxic pesticides that were included in the House bill, and takes aim at fraudulent organic crops.