A Big Win and a Big Loss for Alaska with the Passage of the Farm Bill - P.O.W. Report

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Big Win and a Big Loss for Alaska with the Passage of the Farm Bill

The Big Win:

With the passage of the Farm Bill in Congress on Thursday afternoon, industrial hemp is now legal in the US which would, in theory, also loosen laws regarding CBD (marijuana).

For those that may not be aware there is a difference between hemp and marijuana:

Cannabis has both male and female plants. When growing marijuana, male plants are removed and only female plants are cultivated. This is because when cannabis is fertilized, it lowers the concentration of THC–the main chemical that gets you high. Thanks to selective breeding over many years, ideal concentrations of THC in marijuana range from 10% to as much as 30%. This will be important to remember in a moment when we compare marijuana to hemp. [...]

Hemp, on the other hand, is as close as you can get to how cannabis grows naturally. Hemp is grown all over the world for food, oil, and fiber — so, the whole plant can be used, not just the flowers. With the hemp type of cannabis, male and female plants are sown very closely together, allowing for easy wind pollination and easily crowding out weeds. This results in very tall, hardy plants with less branching that look very different from the short, bushy marijuana plants.

Another key difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp naturally has almost no THC. Its flowers must contain just 0.3% THC — which is 33 times less than the least potent marijuana. Meaning, it’s impossible to get high from hemp, although many people have tried!

The Farm Bill:
President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill on Thursday afternoon, which legalized hemp — a variety of cannabis that does not produce the psychoactive component of marijuana — paving the way to legitimacy for an agricultural sector that has been operating on the fringe of the law. Industrial hemp has made investors and executives swoon because of the potential multibillion-dollar market for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound that has started to turn up in beverages, health products and pet snacks, among other products.

The farm bill is a sprawling piece of legislation that sets U.S. government agricultural and food policy for the country and is renewed roughly every five years. This version of the bill places industrial hemp — which is defined as a cannabis plant with under 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — under the supervision of the Agriculture Department and removes CBD from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act, which covers marijuana. The law also “explicitly” preserved the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate products containing cannabis, or cannabis-derived compounds. [...]

As CBD goes mainstream and beverage giants, food companies and others have begun to take serious interest in the roughly $2 billion U.S. market. Tilray Inc. TLRY, +10.28% announced a partnership with Anheuser-Busch InBev SA BUD, -1.48% this week to research marijuana-based beverages, and Constellation Brands Inc. STZ, -3.03% has invested heavily in pot producer Canopy Growth Corp. Other large companies, like Molson Coors Brewing Co. TAP, -0.92% , have invested in research, and Coca-Cola Co. KO, -0.75% and others have at least considered making a play for the space.

If the state of Alaska was smart they would invest in hemp production especially in the Matanuska region which is famous for it's growth production--in particular the potato farms.

Other Provisions in the Bill:

Moreover, the farm bill gives seniors, families with children, and others who are struggling financially access to meals and healthy food via government-funded nutrition programs. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), was a sticking point in congressional negotiations; Democrats accused Republicans of attempting to dismantle nutrition by imposing work requirements on recipients.

The final farm bill, which has bipartisan support, does not require such rules. [...]

Other major elements of the farm bill include legalizing the farming of industrial hemp (but not legalizing marijuana); creating an Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production at the USDA, aimed at encouraging urban farming, indoor farming and other innovative practices; instituting data collection and reporting on trends in farmland ownership and operation; and protecting the civil rights office at the USDA from reorganization and political interference.

The Big Loss:

From the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council:

Thanks to the efforts of nearly 1,000 Tongass supporters, a coalition of environmental groups, and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s leadership - Don Young’s Tongass Roadless Rule exemption was dropped from the Farm Bill!

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry championed Tongass conservation by ensuring that Alaska Congressman Don Young’s amendment to exempt the Tongass and Chugach National Forests from the national Roadless Rule was removed from the final bill. [...]

This is a huge win for the Tongass and Southeast Alaska. This proves again how important upholding the national Roadless Rule is for the Tongass, and our Southeast communities. Let’s celebrate this win while preparing to continue to defend the national Roadless Rule on the Tongass.

The new year will bring with it the second phase of the State of Alaska’s attempt to roll back these same vital protections for the Tongass. SEACC is ready to stand with you and continue to defend the Roadless Rule.

As you are aware, the "Roadless Rule has been a controversial topic for decades in Southeast and Prince of Wales:

Roadless area conservation is a conservation policy limiting road construction and the resulting environmental impact on designated areas of public land. In the United States, roadless area conservation has centered on U.S. Forest Service areas known as inventoried roadless areas. The most significant effort to support the conservation of these efforts was the Forest Service 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule).

Access roads provide convenient access for industry as well as for a variety of recreational activities, such as sightseeing, fishing, hunting, and off-roading. However, these activities can cause erosion, pollution, species loss,[1] and loss of aesthetic appeal. In addition, the building of roads can lead to further development of "splinter roads" that take off from them, and the encroachment of human settlement and development in sensitive areas.

In the United States, roadless areas make up 58.5 million acres (237,000 km²), or about 30%, of National Forest lands in 38 states and Puerto Rico. These areas provide critical habitat for more than 1,600 threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and animal species.[2] Roadless rules are also seen as a way to save taxpayers money. America’s National Forests are currently covered with 386,000 miles (621,000 km) of roads, enough to encircle the earth 15 times. A $4.5-billion maintenance backlog exists on National Forest roads, according to the agency's own estimates.[3]

It's been an exciting week in Congress as the threat for shutdown also looms if President Trump doesn't get his wall.

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