Agricultural interests are hopeful that things will change for the better under A Donald Trump administration, but much uncertainty remains as the President Elect completes selection of key positions and as newly elected congressmen prepare to take office in January.
High on the wish list, says new National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) CEO Chandler Goule, is repeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Other possible actions include a delay on the Worker Protection Standards update, revision of biotech regulations and consideration of crop protection product labeling issues.
“The new administration is likely to attempt to revise or rescind WOTUS,” Goule said during the opening session of the Texas Plant Protection Association’s 28th annual conference at Bryan, in early December.
“Passing legislation to ‘pull’ WOTUS will be difficult,” Goule says. “We have two conflicting Supreme Court case rulings and a current stay on implementation. The science and economics are in question.”
A more likely option, he says is to “stop the rule where it is and work with stakeholders.” He adds that regulating water resources can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution across the country. Currently, the rule doesn’t consider geographic differences. “It will need to develop different rules for different parts of the country.”
He says pesticide label issues deserve a look considering pressure on products such as Atrazine and glyphosate. “Endangered species declarations also could affect future use of pesticides.”
GMO REMAINS HOT TOPIC
GMO labeling will continue to be a hot topic. “Currently, the definition of GMO is a bit sketchy. We also have to continue to educate consumers on the benefits of GMOs.”
Goule says agriculture expects to benefit under a Trump administration with the possibility of “pulling back regulations. We still have to wait for a new Secretary OF Agriculture and under-secretaries. The Senate and House leadership is unchanged.”
He says agricultural interests are hoping to see “sound science” as the basis for crop protection product labels and says current delays are onerous to the business.
He says Senate Republicans, although in the majority, “do not have a filibuster-proof majority. They will still need to negotiate to get a bill passed. They will need six or seven Democrats.”
This Congress will begin discussing a new farm bill as early as March, Goule says, and agriculture faces the challenge of shrinking rural representation. The overwhelming majority of urban representation puts a huge burden on the House and Senate ag committees. And the farm bill will continue to be a huge target for budget cuts. Urban representatives, Goule says, are interested only in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps). He says some are still interested in separating SNAP from the ag commodity titles. “The Senate will not support splitting the farm bill from nutrition.”
Goule says farm bill opponents, such as the Heritage Foundation, would like to separate SNAP from the farm bill. “That will eliminate the farm bill and a lot of programs will go away. We would be back to something like the 1932 program.”
He says the Environmental Working Group remains a burr on agriculture’s backside and is especially critical of voluntary conservation programs.
He expects the farm bill process to begin early in 2017 with field hearing in Washington and across the country. “Committees should have something on paper by the end of 2017. We have a better opportunity for a farm bill in 2017 than we will if we wait until 2018,” Goule says. “Funding will be significantly less in 2018.”
He says other issues expected to be up for debate on the farm bill will be “a hard cap on the federal share of crop insurance premiums and Adjusted Gross Income limits.