WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman David Trone (D-MD), Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Second Chance Task Force, introduced two bills under the Agriculture Improvement Act or “Farm Bill,” to expand economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. Far too often, returning citizens face unnecessary financial barriers after they are released from prison, which is shown to substantially increase recidivism rates. These bills would rescind punitive restrictions for those with criminal records in order and give them a fairer chance to build a career – while strengthening our local economies. 

Trone is joined by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) in introducing the SNAP Second Chance Act of 2023. The bill would limit the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) authority to deny small business owners with a previous criminal conviction the opportunity to become Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers. Trone created the bill after meeting with constituent and business owner, Altimont Mark Wilks, a returning citizen and owner of Carmen’s Corner Store in Frederick. Wilks has struggled to qualify for SNAP retailer eligibility because of his past, making it significantly harder to serve the low-income patrons who rely on his store everyday and build his business. To learn more about Wilks’ story, click here

Additionally, Trone is joined by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH), Nancy Mace (R-SC), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) in introducing the Free to Grow Act, which aims to end the unfair drug felony prohibition for hemp farmers. Despite the fact that Congress legalized hemp farming under the Farm Bill in 2018, the law prohibits people with a felony drug conviction within the past 10 years from cultivating hemp. This is especially troublesome considering that the annual value of U.S. hemp production has grown to over $800 million. By preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from participating in a growing industry, we are further exacerbating their potential inability to start a business and thrive financially.

“Over the past few years, our farms and agricultural industries have suffered critical labor shortages, leaving them unable to keep up with demand. The Free to Grow Act will invite more individuals to join the workforce since the status quo limits those with a drug conviction from cultivating an important agricultural crop: hemp,” said Anthony Lamorena, Senior Federal Affairs Manager at the R Street Institute. “At the R Street Institute, we believe that after individuals serve their time and pay their dues they should be allowed to prosper and help further contribute to our society. The SNAP Second Chance Act will do just that by allowing small business owners with criminal records to be able to redeem SNAP benefits. We thank Congressman David Trone for introducing this important legislation and we are happy to support these efforts.”