Happy Holidays for many thanks to 2018 Farm Bill

December 22, 2018 |

The 2018 Farm Bill, more formally known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was signed by President Trump on Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue’s birthday last week. So what does it mean? What stays the same? What changes? What’s the reaction?

First, you can see what President Trump had to say at the signing ceremony on the White House website where he thanks both Republicans and Democrats on the bill. President Trump even said, “And I want to thank all of the people here, including the many Democrats who have really worked hard on this bill.  They really have. I’ll probably have to deny that I ever said that someday, but I won’t do that. Because you really did — you worked very, very hard.”

What a nice, kumbaya thing to say, but in this case, it’s pretty accurate. Both political parties came together to work on this bill and both sides seem to be pretty happy about it. There are many others quite happy about it like the hemp industry thanks to the opening up of hemp as an agricultural commodity, and the algae industry which call it “historic” for the algae industry.

Even the environmental benefits of the farm bill are being noted by some. The new soil health provisions in the bill “designate funding for a pilot project to incentivize farmers to adopt practices that improve soil health and increase carbon levels, while establishing protocols for measuring the gains in soil carbon resulting from those practices,” according to Nicole Lederer, Chair and Co-Founder of E2. “This is a crucial step toward monetizing a new agricultural product — carbon capture and storage.”

The Reactions

Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President; Head, Industrial & Environmental Section of Biotechnology Innovation Organization told The Digest back on December 13 that “Congress has given those working in America’s bio-based and agricultural sectors a reason to celebrate early.”

Erickson makes a good point that “Contrary to some beliefs, the Farm Bill supports more than just America’s agriculture sector. The bill’s energy title programs provide critical support to companies and manufacturers working on innovations in renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels and other products of industrial biotechnology throughout the value chain. And these technologies are creating new jobs in rural America.”

BIO’s President and CEO Jim Greenwood noted the benefit of these programs in testimony to Congress when work first began on this important legislation in 2017. “Farm Bill energy title programs have been incredibly successful in incentivizing the biobased economy,” he explained. “Because of the research, loans, and grants provided by these programs, industrial biotechnology companies are developing new feedstocks, industrial enzymes, and biological catalysts for the conversion of biomass for the production of advanced biofuels, alternative jet fuels, renewable chemicals and biobased products.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a joint statement thanking the “Farm Bill conferees for including a new pilot Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) in the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report to promote and document the benefits of farming practices which improve soil health.”

“We appreciate the leadership of Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) in working with both House and Senate negotiators in securing the original provision in the Senate bill that will encourage farmers to implement and document the true greenhouse benefits of crop production that can make a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change,” said Nicole Lederer, co-founder of E2.

According to EESI, the bill also includes the Timber Innovation Act “which will help drive markets for mass timber” and other pieces that offer “reauthorizing important programs for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products helps create stability for rural communities and producers as well as offering important climate solutions.”

One downside that the EESI points out is “Unfortunately, both the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Biomass Research and Development Program (BRDI) received no mandatory funding. Both programs are crucial to diversifying and growing the bio-based economy, and should be expanded.”

EESI points out several other benefits to the bioeconomy: “There is also a new program, the Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program (Sec. 9011) that will provide grants for education on the benefits of carbon sequestration, an expansion of the definition of “biobased product” to include renewable chemicals; Expansion of the definition of “biorefinery” to include facilities that convert biomass into chemicals and intermediate ingredients; Energy storage is now considered part of a “renewable energy system” under REAP; and Carbon utilization research is now eligible for Biomass Research and Development funding.”

Joyful Algae Reactions

The reaction from the algae community has been super supportive too, even calling it a “historic day for the algae industry,” thanks to the huge expansion of federal support for algae agriculture, according to the Algae Biomass Organization.

ABO said that “Among the bill’s more than 800 pages is a suite of provisions placing algae among the nation’s top priorities for new crop deployment and providing support for the development of algae and related technologies in nutrient management, soil health, carbon recycling and other farm and rural applications.”

You can read about the many key algae provisions here like adding it as an agricultural commodity for the purposes of federal crop insurance programs, paving the way for federal crop insurance for algae production, and the establishment of a new USDA Algae Agriculture Research Program to address challenges in farm-scale algae production and support development of algae-based agriculture solutions.

Another big change for algae was the provision for the first-time full eligibility to algae under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides financial support to farmers for establishment, production and delivery of new biomass crops.

“In total, these provisions represent a dramatic advance in federal algae policy with the potential to greatly expand U.S. algae production and rapidly accelerate development and deployment of innovative algae agriculture technologies,” according to ABO. “This remarkable outcome is the product of a more than year-long campaign by the ABO Executive Policy Council and the support of more than a dozen congressional offices, including key House and Senate farm bill leaders.”

Happy Hemp Reactions

The hemp industry is high on happiness with the new farm bill too. In Pennsylvania, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, President of the American Pain Association (APA) has been leading efforts to educate physicians, lawmakers and insurance companies about the significant health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) products for the treatment and management of pain and Opioid Use Disorder.  The American Pain Association is hailing the passage of the Farm Bill as a breakthrough and major victory for patients and physicians seeking harmless therapeutic modalities to treat people suffering from various pain syndromes including spine, migraine, neuropathic, fibromyalgia and opioid use disorder. The passage removes CBD from the Controlled Substances Act and legalize CBD production.

“CBD is marijuana (or cannabis) without the THC, the psychoactive compound found in Cannabis plants. Unlike THC, CBD does not make patients high and Gupta believes, is proving to have many health benefits including pain relief, weight loss, sleep disturbances, ADD and Anxiety disorders, or smoking cessation

Heritage Cannabis Holdings Corp. “applauds USA for passing farm bill.” Heritage said “This new legislation is projected to have a direct and positive affect on Heritage’s subsidiary Purefarma Solutions (“Purefarma”) and its planned roll out of extraction services within the two Heritage Licensed Producer subsidiaries, PhyeinMed and CannaCure.”

Canadian-based Canopy Growth, the world’s largest diversified hemp and cannabis company, said they commend “the United States government for passing the Farm Bill, a transformative piece of legislation that will create jobs and meaningful economic impact across the United States. Canopy Growth will participate in the American market now that there is a clear federally-permissible path to the market. Consistent with the spirit of the Farm Bill, Canopy Growth will participate in ways that support American farmers.”

In Washington, Investorideas.com, an investor news resource covering hemp and cannabis stocks, “released a snapshot looking at the growing global opportunity in the CBD and Hemp market as large scale deals are announced and the industry gets a green light with the historic Presidential signing of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

They note that “Tilray, Inc., a global leader in cannabis research and production, plans to be one of the leaders with recent announcements of its letter of intent to purchase hemp-derived CBD isolate from LiveWell Canada , in addition to news of a joint research partnership with Anheuser-Busch InBev into non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages.”

“American Premium Water Corporation, a company focused on harnessing the powers of hydrogen and Nano technologies paired with cannabidiol (CBD) to treat health disorders and enhance quality of life, has also been making preparations for the soon to expand CBD sector,” according to Investorideas.com.

Bottom Line

Hemp is happy. Algae is happy. Biofuels is happy. Timber is happy. Biochem is happy. Democrats are happy. Republicans are happy. With all of this happiness, world peace all of a sudden seems a lot more realistic now than it did a week ago, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the time of year, the holidays, the promise of a fresh start in the new year, the happy jolly Santa on his way, but the Farm Bill shows a lot of promise for a wide range of biobased markets in the U.S. and for that, we are happy.

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