07.25.19

Chairman Roberts Hears from Hemp Production Stakeholders

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held a hearing titled, “Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill.” 

“I have talked repeatedly about two themes here in the Committee—providing certainty and predictability for farmers,” said Chairman Roberts. “However, this developing industry has great opportunity but—to be truthful—also has much uncertainty and risk for farmers.” 

“These are cautions regarding this new crop, but let me be clear, I am extremely supportive of new opportunities for farmers. It is not often that an almost entirely new crop with this level of interest and market potential comes along. We even have facilities being built in Russell, Kansas.” 

“Today, we are here to ask questions, learn from stakeholders, and better understand the multitude of issues surrounding hemp cultivation and this industry.”  

To watch the hearing and read testimony, click here.

Click here to watch Chairman Roberts’ opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order. 

Before beginning my remarks, both the Ranking Member and I received a letter regarding hemp production from the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, Inc. and there is a separate letter from the Drug Policy Alliance regarding the hemp felon ban that I submit for the record today. Without Objection.  

Today’s hearing on hemp production first convenes the three federal agencies that directly regulate or affect hemp cultivation.  

USDA is preparing a rule on hemp as directed by the Farm Bill. FDA is faced with issues that are relevant to processor demand for this crop. And, EPA will play an integral role in how producers raise this crop through the choices available to them. This hearing is designed to provide a forum for the agencies to discuss the decisions they are facing as well as stakeholder perspectives regarding the USDA rule in development.  

On today’s second panel, the Committee will hear from those on the ground as they provide insight from the producer, industry and tribal regulatory perspectives.  

I have talked repeatedly about two themes here in the Committee—providing certainty and predictability for farmers. However, this developing industry has great opportunity but—to be truthful—also has much uncertainty and risk for farmers.  

Hemp was only recently removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Because of its historical legal problems, hemp agronomics suffer from a relatively short history of data, research and good farming practices compared to other new crops that we’ve seen ramp up towards more significant acreage in the past.  

Farmers bear significant risk regarding hemp production regardless of their operation’s business model. A producer may share risk through a contract to grow hemp for a processor, with the processor providing an input, such as seed. Though there have been instances where some growers may not have always received timely payment by a processor. And, a different farmer may grow hemp to sell either the fiber, grain, seed hemp, or flower on the open market.  

At present, there is not federal multi-peril crop insurance available to generally cover lost production costs. And, there is a need for production data to develop any revenue insurance policy. 

These are cautions regarding this new crop, but let me be clear, I am extremely supportive of new opportunities for farmers. It is not often that an almost entirely new crop with this level of interest and market potential comes along. We even have facilities being built in Russell, Kansas. 

As we all know, times are tough. Producers across the country have been experiencing increased costs and low commodity prices over the past several years. On top of that, many farmers dealt with Mother Nature’s wrath this spring as flooding prevented many from getting a crop, or a quality crop, in the ground. 

These economic conditions drive further margin erosion and financial stress for many operations. However, producers and agricultural stakeholders continue to look for ways to adapt to the downturn in agricultural prices. Many are positioning themselves for longer-term opportunities that might warrant further investment or provide an additional profit opportunity.  

Today, we are here to ask questions, learn from stakeholders, and better understand the multitude of issues surrounding hemp cultivation and this industry. 

I support the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill in a farmer-friendly manner, and hemp is no exception. And, needless to say, based upon my history with the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act – or FIFRA – I strongly support the development of the data and information needed to provide this crop with conventional crop protection tools.  

But, there are complex questions in this space. Is hemp the crop of a generation? What will this industry look like in 10 years? I do not know the answers to these questions, and I am not sure if anyone actually can answer them.  

However, witnesses testifying on both panels today have valuable insight to share. Facilitating the flow of accurate information regarding this new endeavor—especially as it relates to the pending decisions by the federal agencies—will hopefully be of use to the agencies, the industry, and in the end, the farmers upon whom much of this success will be built.  

I now recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.

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