Good For Agriculture
By Dennis Sun
As I write this column on the day before Inauguration Day, I’m asking myself, just what the next four years will be like for agriculture in the Intermountain West, the region and the country. From what we have heard, climate change will be a main topic, and a large number of positions will be held by former Obama appointees.
I’m pretty sure fewer regulations will not be in the new administration’s vocabulary, so we’ll have to wait and see where this shakes out. As mentioned before, climate change will be a controlling factor in all decisions made, and if those decisions go too far against agriculture, it could really hurt the fragile state of the industry.
Tom Vilsack, a former Secretary of Agriculture under the Obama administration has been nominated to serve in the position again. He has the backing of many ag leaders and Congressional members from farm states.
Since the end of the Obama administration, Vilsack has been leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council, a trade group which advocates for the dairy industry overseas. His greatest talent is that he knows agriculture. This talent will help, I hope, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to play a major role in the Biden administration’s response to climate change.
After years of resistance to talking about climate change, some farm groups and farmers are discussing policies which give farmers and ranchers incentives to capture and store carbon in their soil and to expand the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation borrowing authority to create a carbon bank to help pay farmers and ranchers for carbon sequestration.
Some individuals in Wyoming have been trying to get this done for 20 years. If done on a voluntary basis, this could be an opportunity.
Jewel Bronaugh, the current commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has been nominated for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. When Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture before, he nominated Bronaugh as the Virginia state director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.
Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) has been nominated for the Secretary of Interior Post. Her decisions will affect a lot of people and businesses in the West. We hope she will not add a lot of regulations for people and businesses critical to the West.
Elizabeth Klein has been nominated for the Deputy Secretary of Interior. Klein, an attorney, had worked in the Department of Interior during both the Clinton and Obama administrations.
During President Trump’s administration, agriculture was a big deal. The White House was easy for most leading farm and livestock organizations to visit, and those in the White House listened to what was being said. President Trump negotiated some favorable bilateral trade deals and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
President Trump and his administration worked hard on unnecessary regulations, especially in the West. Issues of water, grazing, timber, endangered species, transportation and energy helped the West’s farmers and ranchers.
President Trump wanted agriculture to be profitable, not just get by. When discussing regulations, he wanted a cost-benefit analysis. If the costs were not overtaken by benefits, then he didn’t do them.
With trade talks, those of us in agriculture didn’t understand his New York City type of negotiating, but, especially with China, he was both the arsonist and the fireman.
He was good for agriculture.