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House passes USMCA, Senate up next in 2020

After several hours of debate, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the more than 200-page long United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The house overwhelmingly supported the bill, including 193 Democrats and 192 Republicans.

“We are ecstatic to see the bipartisan efforts by House leadership and the Trump administration to negotiate this important deal,” said Richard Guebert Jr., Illinois Farm Bureau president. “The USMCA is an updated, modern trade deal with two of U.S. agriculture’s top three trading partners.”

USMCA will significantly benefit Illinois agriculture. Specifically, Illinois farmers export 40% of their corn, 13% of their beef and 34% of their pork to Mexico and Canada alone. This economic activity supports thousands of jobs in the state.

“Illinois Farm Bureau leaders and members greatly appreciate the Illinois representatives who voted in favor of USMCA today,” stated Guebert. “We look forward to the moment this economically important trade agreement is fully ratified with U.S. Senate passage as soon as possible in 2020.”


National
IFB concerned proposed federal hemp rules could be tough for farmers

Illinois Farm Bureau continues to review USDA’s interim U.S. Domestic Hemp Production rules but is concerned some proposals may cause difficult situations for growers, according to Bill Bodine, Illinois Farm Bureau director of business and regulatory affairs.

USDA extended the public comment period on proposed interim final rules until Jan. 29. Bodine said IFB intends to submit comments before the deadline.

USDA has proposed a hemp tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) testing system that combines delta-9 THC and THC-A, the precursor to THC. Legally, industrial hemp cannot test more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. This year, few Illinois hemp samples exceeded that threshold, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Currently, IDOA tests for delta-9 THC concentration levels.

“A concern for IFB is the proposed system could make it difficult for growers to maximize cannabidiol (CBD), and therefore, make it more difficult to make more money from CBD,” Bodine said. To ensure THC levels don’t exceed the threshold under USDA’s proposed system, growers may need to harvest their crop earlier, decreasing opportunity for higher CBD levels, he explained.

Another IFB concern centers on USDA’s proposed 15-day harvest rule that would require growers to complete harvest within 15 days of a crop being sampled for THC levels.

“It may be a challenge to harvest hemp within 15 days if growers run into weather problems,” Bodine said. “That timeline is a difficult standard to meet.”

Existing Illinois hemp rules will be in place for the 2020 growing season through Oct. 31. USDA published its interim rules in the Federal Register Oct. 31 of this year and opened a public comment period.