The Industrial Hemp Program outlined in the current Senate Farm Bill could upend the separate-but-unequal funding model of the past. But only if legislators make it so.
Today, in a second vote, the House passed its messy version of the farm bill. As this legislative skirmish gobbles up the headlines, remember that the Senate quietly passed its own version out of committee earlier this month—one that includes a plan to legalize hemp production.
If adopted, that plan would allocate funding for schools that want to conduct hemp research. With this new money, legislators could make huge progress in undoing more than a hundred years of inequality in the way land-grant universities are funded.
But it’s not there yet. As written, the Industrial Hemp Program doesn’t specify which schools can qualify for research funding. With a few strokes of the pen, however, legislators could make a tiny change to reserve that money for land-grant universities, a change that would be largely invisible to a casual observer. But for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), it could provide crucial support for chronically underfunded research programs. Through this pilot, there’s a real opportunity to start leveling the playing field for HBCUs that have had to jump through hoops since the 1890s