Government shutdown hurting hemp farmers

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Although the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect January 1, the federal shutdown is slowing things down

Legislators and President Trump approved the 2018 Farm Bill at the end of last year, paving the way for legalized hemp cultivation across the country. While farmers would love to be able to rev up their engines and get things rolling, they’re being stifled by the ongoing government shutdown that has large portions of the federal government twiddling its thumbs while government officials stare each other down.

Particularly anxious to get the industry going are farmers in Utah. The state began allowing hemp cultivation as part of the 2014 Farm Bill through a special program with the Department of Agriculture and Food, but the farmers are required to submit regulatory plans to the department, as well as pass an FBI background check.

The latter caveat is where the trouble begins. Those officials in the FBI tasked with conducting the background checks are all currently waiting on the shutdown to end so they can get back to work. The furlough is causing impatience and, potentially, the ability of farmers to put food on their tables. As the spokesperson for Utah’s agriculture department, Jack Wilbur, pointed out, “It could keep someone from getting their business underway.”

The shutdown could also impact farmers in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Minnesota. They have approval for hemp pilot programs that also require the FBI background checks, as well as other records checks that can only be conducted by the FBI.