WASHINGTON --President Donald Trump signed the $867 billion Congressional farm bill on Dec. 20, resolving several pending issues of interest to convenience retailers.
To begin with, the bill makes it legal to harvest and grow hemp in the United States, a step that is expected to open the doors for a stream of cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products, many of which will target convenience stores as a source of sales.
The final version of the bill also managed to avoid cuts in the government’s food-stamp program, and it kept the U.S. electronic benefits transfer (EBT) platform intact, despite some rumblings from Republican lawmakers.
Here’s a snapshot of what c-store retailers were watching as the Farm Bill moved through Congress …
For years, hemp, which is in the cannabis family but has little to none of the psychoactive chemicals found in marijuana, had been classified as a Schedule 1 drug, seen legally in the same light as heroin.
The Farm Bill reclassifies hemp as a Schedule 5 drug, so the plants and derivative products are now akin to cough medications like Robitussin.
The measure, called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, essentially legalizes products made from hemp that contain CBD oils, so long as they contain less than 0.3% THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
The hemp provision was the top priority of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who wanted to open the market to help hemp farmers and processing facilities in Kentucky.
The billion farm bill also gives states the opportunity to regulate hemp production, allow hemp researchers to apply for federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and make hemp eligible for crop insurance.
EBT fees banned
Another provision that would have affected the c-store industry includes language that permanently bans processing fees for EBT transactions and reiterates the ban on interchange fees. The EBT system is the electronic-payment platform that handles federal programs such as SNAP. NACS said retailers have seen how such fees on the commercial side with the major credit cards can escalate over time and negatively affect the price of goods. NACS, along with other retail-trade associations, have spent the past two years educating lawmakers on this issue and the need for a permanent ban on fees, the association said.