Role of Farm Bureau even more critical – March 2021
Generally this time of year I would be reporting on what is going on at the Legislature. However, this year our Legislature has changed the schedule around so they met virtually for eight days after the one day they met to fulfill their Constitutional requirements. They are scheduled to come into session on March 1 so stay tuned. This altered schedule has also caused us to cancel our Legislative Meeting we hold to allow members to visit with their Senators and Representatives.
On the national level we’ve seen both the executive branch and the legislative branch move to Democrat control. Changes in the leadership will certainly have effects on agriculture.
Tom Vilsack appears to be heading back to the Department of Agriculture and in video meetings with state Farm Bureau presidents, he emphasized President Biden’s desire to implement programs for agriculture which impact climate change. Early indications for these types of programs include some form of carbon credit program, expansion of conservation reserve type programs and enhancing or increasing the use of ethanol. There will also be a change in direction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which delivers food to those qualifying. A number of other ideas may be proposed either by the Administration or Congress.
The Senate Ag Committee has added Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey who is a vegan and has criticized livestock farming. An article in Agri-Pulse said he sought a seat on the Ag Committee to address a range of concerns about ag and food policy. He went on to elaborate those concerns include “massive corporate consolidation, “unconscionable” working conditions on farms, and diet-related disease. He also indicated his desire to work on animal welfare concerns. Also appointed to the Senate Ag Committee was Senator Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico. Senator Lujan has a near perfect record with the League of Conservation Voters when he was in the House.
Information on appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows a number of them are coming from those environmental organizations who have adverse relationships with agriculture. Recent announcements from EPA highlight that the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations worked as the Political Director of End Citizens United & Let America Vote and prior to that worked for Climate Action Campaign. The Senior Counselor to the Administrator recently served as Patagonia’s Environmental Advocate. The Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional Affairs used to work for the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. During the confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator Michael Regan, AFBF Senior Director of Regulatory Relations Don Parish said Regan made no bones about the Agency focusing on climate change and environmental justice and reviewing WOTUS rules.
As more appointments come through, I’m sure we will continue to see similar backgrounds in those appointees.
Elections have consequences and with the conclusion of this election we certainly will see a change in policies coming out of the executive branch and the legislative branch. The role of Farm Bureau will become even more critical.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President