November 30, 2020 at 7:32 p.m.

Biden to deliver small changes in ag policy agenda

By Don Wick- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    With President-elect Joe Biden, Michael Torrey Associates owner Mike Torrey expects to see a different approach to trade, and the agricultural agenda will change slightly. “With a smaller margin of Democrats in the House and an expected Republican-controlled Senate, it’s got to make it difficult for a really progressive agenda,” Torrey said. “Climate change may be one of those issues. Ag groups have been working together for some time trying to come up with a plan on climate change, rewarding farmers for their practices that the business community and consumers are expecting. I don’t know what this looks like, but there’s less pressure for Congress to act on that right now.”

A Biden White House and GOP Senate could be a win for agriculture
    After the election, analysts are trying to read the tea leaves for any clues about the economy. CoBank Knowledge Exchange Division Manager Tanner Ehmke sees a reason for optimism. “With a Biden administration and a Republican-controlled Senate, people in the business community are saying this could be the best of both worlds,” Ehmke said. “We lose some of the uncertainty on trade and you have Mitch McConnell putting the handcuffs on Biden and saying no to new taxes.” The government stepped in to help farmers in the past two years with MFP payments, CFAP payments and increased food purchases. Ehmke does not expect that kind of intervention in the future.

Limited production ag experience on Biden transition team  
    Former United States Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie is leading the Biden transition team and its review of USDA, the Farm Credit Administration and Farmer Mac. Bonnie leads the Bipartisan Policy Center at Duke University. There are 17 individuals on the transition team. More than 75% of this group previously worked at USDA during the Obama Administration. Former Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess will bring production agriculture experience to the panel. Most of the other members of the transition team worked on nutrition programs.

One thing is certain after the election
    There will be new leadership for the House and Senate agriculture committees. With Rep. Collin Peterson’s loss, the chairmanship for the House Agriculture Committee is up for grabs. The ranking member on committee, Texas Congressman Michael Conaway, did not seek reelection. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, of Kansas, did not seek reelection. That leaves Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate ag committee, as the only one in leadership that has been through the farm bill process.

85 years of experience no longer at the table
    According to The Russell Group President Randy Russell, the agriculture community is losing significant experience from the agriculture committees. “(Kansas Sen.) Pat Roberts was in office for 40 years and was the only person to serve as both the House and Senate ag committees,” Russell said. “(Minnesota Rep.) Collin Peterson was in for 30 years and (Texas Rep.) Mike Conaway was in for 15 years. That is 85 years of experience no longer sitting at the table.” Russell fully expects the individuals that move into those leadership roles to do well, “but, that’s very big shoes to fill.”

Peterson backs Scott for ag committee chairmanship
    House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is supporting Georgia Congressman David Scott to be his successor. Peterson wrote a letter to Scott, voicing his support for the seniority system. The Minnesota lawmaker followed the first Hispanic chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Kika de la Garza, of Texas. Scott will be the first African American in this role if selected for the chairmanship.

Institutional knowledge lost on Capitol Hill
    Policy Solutions President Jay Truitt cites Congressman Collin Peterson’s experience with very specific commodities, like the dairy program. “Peterson’s understanding of dairy policy and what really goes into that in the U.S. makes him one of a dozen people in Washington, D.C. that understand that,” Truitt said. Truitt said there are only a few members on the House Agriculture Committee that represent hard-core rural districts. “Almost everyone else on the committee will be more interested in SNAP programs and incidental conversations about promoting markets and those kind of things as opposed to fundamental production agriculture issues,” he said.
A volatile dairy market
    November has been a rough month for the cheese market. In the last two weeks, there has not been an up day in cheese. Prices have been either even or down on the day. Total Farm Marketing Commodity Consultant Dustin Jonasson said cheese has moved below $2 a pound. “I think a portion of this has to do with the uncertainty of what a Biden win might mean for that (USDA) food box program that has led to a lot of government buying this past year,” Jonasson said. Jonasson reminds dairy farmers to take advantage of opportunities when they come up. “2020 has been a good reminder of that,” he said. “We had this rally in August that nobody saw coming and it was pretty counter-seasonal, but we had opportunity to lock in on feed.”

Europe targets U.S. dairy products for retaliatory tariffs
    In a dispute over subsidies paid to airplane manufacturers, the European Commission has released a list of agricultural products facing retaliatory tariffs. That list includes cheese and concentrated milk proteins. National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said Europe already discriminates against U.S. dairy products and limits market access. NMPF is calling on the EU to meet the terms of the World Trade Organization.

Dairy industry and EPA sign MOU
    The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Environmental Protection Agency. The MOU allows the EPA to be a member of the Dairy Sustainability Alliance. This group works together on sustainability goals and the long-term viability of the dairy industry.

Compeer Financial releases 3Q financials
    Compeer Financial has reported total third quarter assets of $23.7 billion, up from $22.2 billion one year ago. Despite the ramifications of COVID-19, Compeer Financial said credit quality remains solid. There was a small drop in nonaccrual loans, going from 0.6% as of Sept. 30, compared to 0.8% in December of last year.

Ebersberger appointed to DATCP job
    Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary-designee Randy Romanski has appointed Eric Ebersberger as the assistant deputy secretary. Most recently, Ebersberger was a policy advisor for the Department of Natural Resources.

A familiar face returns to WFU
    Nicholas Levendofsky will return to the Wisconsin Farmers Union as its new government relations director. Most recently, Levendofsky was the director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Previously, Levendofsky worked for WFU and the Kansas Farmers Union.

Dairy industry leader passes
    A world-renowned cheesemaker and dairy scientist, Vincent Leo, died. Leo, 96, was one of 13 employees who purchased Schreiber Foods in 1962 and went on to become a senior executive with the company.

Trivia challenge
    Adults are recommended in the American Dietary Guidelines to consume three servings of dairy products per day. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, what Christmas beverage is also known as milk punch? We will have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.
    Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network, based in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wick has been recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year and served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Don and his wife, Kolleen, have two adult sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora and Sterling.


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