Cattlemen get overview of new administration from NCBA analyst
(This article first appeared in the February 2, 2017 issue of The Farmer’s Pride)
By Ray Bowman
The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association began their 2017 convention on the eve of the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump and a policy issues update from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association gave them an impression of what they might see over the next four years.
“It’s been an interesting week in Washington D.C., with a little ceremony going on tomorrow,” quipped Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs at NCBA regarding the inauguration. Of the new President, Woodall acknowledged the role rural voters had in the election, noting that “American agriculture showed up in force to put him over the goal line.”
Woodall cautioned his audience to have realistic expectations about any changes that might be ahead, warning that “even though President Trump was elected for four years, he doesn’t necessarily have four years to deliver on his promises.” Currently, there is a Republican majority in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. However, in two years, one-third of the Senate and the entire House will be up for re-election. Should voters be disappointed with their national representation, Woodall said major shifts could take place in the makeup of both houses, creating a less favorable legislative environment for the President’s agenda.
Just before Woodall took the KCA convention stage, it was announced that former Georgia governor George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III would be the final cabinet pick as nominee for the post of Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.)
Woodall pointed to Perdue’s varied experience growing up in a farm family before becoming an air force captain, an elected official and a veterinarian, as well as an entrepreneur building businesses in grain trading and trucking.
“He understands policy, he understands agriculture and I think he’s going to bring a lot to the table to help us address some of the issues that we’re dealing with right now,” Woodall said.
One of those issues which has become a vigorously debated topic is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the President has already addressed with a Presidential memorandum withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, making its ratification virtually impossible.
While conditions of the agreement may have been favorable to the beef industry and other facets of U.S. agriculture, some economists were concerned that the agreement would adversely affect the signatories. Alternative trade strategies are currently being explored on several fronts. Woodall questioned, “If it’s not TPP, then what is it?”
Regulatory matters, such as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule are a major concern to both the agriculture community and the new administration.
WOTUS has been hotly contested by agriculture from the beginning as an egregious overreach of government enforcement that sought no input from stakeholders and paid little heed to the concerns of farmer and ranchers.
According to the whitehouse.gov website, “Eliminate the Waters of the U.S. rule” heads the list of Trump administration energy and environment policy positions. According to the site, “our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”
“We cannot afford for this thing (WOTUS) to go forward,” Woodall commented. “If it does, there will be a lot of people that just aren’t going to be in agriculture anymore.”
Woodall mentioned other matters, such as the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and tax reform, all of which will impact the future of agriculture.
Time will tell how those issues will be resolved and what level of influence may be felt by the agriculture community, but Woodall concluded his remarks on an optimistic note, saying “we have a lot of opportunities to make things better for us.”
Convention-goers also had ample education opportunities, incorporating the Beef Efficiency Conference and forages overview from the University of Kentucky.
The convention was gaveled to a close by newly-installed KCA president Chuck Crutcher of Rineyville.