Farm Bureau staff share policy radar for 2021

American Farm Bureau Federation staff presented its Washington update to members during the organization’s annual virtual convention, Jan. 11. There will be many priorities for Farm Bureau members that staff will focus their efforts on as President Joe Biden takes office and the 117th Congress convenes this year.

Michael Sistak, director of Grassroots Program Development for the AFBF, told membership that the election results showed a widening gap between rural and urban interests. That gap is something, he said, that farmers and ranchers will need to bridge to get their policy priorities passed.

“We know this was an election with intense passions on both sides, that’s not going to abate,” Sistak said. “If we continue to have this widening gap between folks who live in rural communities and folks who live in urban cores and suburbs, and a widening gap between them and the things that they support, it’s something that we’ll have to look at as members and as advocates with members of Congress going forward.”

Sistak said he expects the Biden administration to strengthen agricultural research funding under its farm policy. He also said members should expect a push to re-engage on the Paris Climate Accords, and work to achieve carbon-free energy in the next 15 years. On the trade side, Sistak said members should expect Biden to re-engage on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

There are opportunities for farmers though, Sistak said, such as Biden’s focus on infrastructure on day one as part of his Build Back Better plan.

“This presents opportunities for Farm Bureau and rural communities and farmers,” he said. “Biden’s talked about needing to rebuild roads and waterways and ports and invest in rural broadband expansion.”

Sistak said Biden’s experience as a legislator, more than an executive, will most likely result in more compromises in cutting deals to get his agenda through Congress.

“He’s a party centrist, and more than willing to compromise,” Sistak said. “He’s an institutionalist with respect for the people and processes and protocols for government, especially in the Senate.” There’s a chance for bipartisanship in this narrowly divided congress, and that presents an opportunity for Farm Bureau members to build relationships and get their policy passed.

Pat Wolff, senior director Congressional Relations for AFBF, told members to expect big tax legislation in the first six months of the Biden administration, including discussions over estate taxes and capital gains taxes.

Allison Crittenden, director of Congressional Relations for AFBF, said the new administration will continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigations of the spread of the virus in workplaces. Additionally, Biden is likely to direct Congress to put together more permanent ag labor reform and immigration reform for ag laborers, which is something members have said needs to be addressed by policy.

Other hot-button topics that will likely be addressed in the Biden administration will include: agriculture’s role in climate change mitigation efforts; biofuels; livestock mandatory reporting reauthorization and risk management options for livestock producers; clean water policy; trade and more.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].