Bill passes easily through House despite Farm Bureau letter
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB) announced Monday it would oppose Rep. Paul Curtman’s bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Missouri.
MFB President Blake Hurst wrote in a letter to representatives that Curtman’s bill could mean farmers who decide to grow industrial hemp would be operating outside of federal law.
While MFB supports the production of alternative crops, Missouri farmers must remain compliant with federal law. Current MFB policy on industrial hemp states, “We oppose the production of industrial hemp except under the provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014.” Based on this policy MFB opposes HB 170 as it allows individuals licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp but fails to meet provisions of the Agriculture Act of 2014… If Missouri proceeds with an industrial hemp program, steps must be taken to ensure there are no unintended consequences.
Alongside the letter, the Farm Bureau sent a notice from the federal register from the U.S. Depts. of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Justice which they say means the rules within the Agricultural Act of 2014 mean industrial hemp can only be grown by institutions of higher learning or state departments of agriculture for pilot programs.
Curtman, however, had strong words for the MFB, saying they were “spinning the memo from the federal register any faster than they are in their letter.”
“If you read the entire memo you can easily come to the conclusion the Dept. of Agriculture and the DEA are just upset the Federal Farm Act of 2014 didn’t allow them to promulgate the rules,” Curtman said. [Editor’s note: the Federal Farm Act of 2014 is the same bill as the Agricultural Act of 2014.]
Indeed, the notice states under regulatory requirements that it “does not establish any binding legal requirements.” Thirty-one other states have begun pilot programs for industrial hemp, all of whom created their own rules to do do so. The US Dept. of Agriculture does not promulgate or define what a pilot program or a research program is, giving states tons of leeway in what a pilot program looks like for industrial hemp.
Curtman says his bill fits that mold. He also expressed his disappointment with the Farm Bureau continuing to oppose his legislation for years, despite hearing from multiple farmers within the Capitol and outside of it who support the bill.
“They want us to abide by a federal bureaucracy that’s obviously clamoring for more power,” Curtman continued. “[It] kind of goes against everything I thought the Farm Bureau stood for. I thought they were for more about empowering farmers and you certainly can’t do that if you’re going to lobby for federal bureaucracies and tell farmers what they can and can’t grow.”
The bill easily passed through the House with significant bipartisan support 126-26.
Featured image: Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau, in August 2016