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Why Hemp Could Take off (And How the Shutdown Is Fueling Uncertainty)

After the passage of the 2018 farm bill, which opened the door to industrial hemp production, farmers and business owners started planning for a big year for the crop in 2019. But for now, they will have to wait.

Since the government shut down last month, the Department of Agriculture, one of the federal agencies closed by the shutdown, hasn’t been able to approve new hemp cultivation plans. Without the approval, hemp can’t be legally harvested and processed in the U.S.

Because of the shutdown, the Agriculture Department temporarily stopped backing some mortgages and other loans to farmers and rural residents. Last Wednesday, the agency extended the deadline for farmers to apply for direct aid — help the Trump administration promised to help cover losses incurred by the United States’ trade war with China. 

The 2018 farm bill, signed by President Donald Trump in the days before the shutdown began, removed hemp with less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the controlled substance list, where it had been since 1970 alongside marijuana and other drugs.

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