Biden, Congress transition means change

A new president and Congress means change, and executives with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expected a recurring theme of stopping the COVID-19 to dominate the news coming out of Washington during the early days of incoming President Joe Biden’s administration.

Biden seeks another $1.9 trillion in relief to help the economy and to battle the pandemic but he will have to thread the needle because the margins in the House and Senate are narrow. Biden has proposed additional $1,400 checks for most individual Americans on top of the $600 already in the pipeline.

Ethan Lane, NCBA vice president of government affairs, said the relief package proposed by Biden will need to be approved by Congress and there are some members from both parties who are concerned about the overall price tag. Biden’s team has indicated that he wants to be aggressive in getting vaccines in arms of Americans across the country, providing resources to related public health delivery systems. He wants Congress to focus on job retention and creation and helping small businesses, Lane said.

Biden’s message has been getting the country’s economy up and running and NCBA’s plan is to find ways to work with the administration where it can from a cattleman’s perspective. Lane and Tanner Beymer, director of government affairs and market regulatory policy, spoke during a recent webinar about expectations early on about the Biden administration and the 117th Congress.

Cattle producers during an NCBA presentation were also concerned about what a change in administrations will mean for hard-fought tax reforms, particularly on the estate tax, water issues and grazing on federal lands. Lane said that will be an emphasis for him and others on the NCBA team. The estate tax reforms signed into law by President Donald Trump help the transition of ranch families to pass it down to the next generation without the tax burden. A holdover from the past two administrations, direction on federal water policy and its oversight, will continue to be debated in the courts, Lane said. Lane and Beymer said federal grazing policies will need to be monitored in the appropriate legislative committees as well as Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lane believes that Biden’s team will want to “hit the ground running” and Biden will look to people who understand how the federal government works. One plus is that many of the appointees are from the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and have proven to work with members of both parties.

Climate change policies and its potential impact on the livestock industry will need to be watched closely, Lane said.

Beymer said having committee chairs and ranking members who understand livestock and agriculture are essential and he felt in most cases there were good working relationships. He also noted that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, are two notable moderate lawmakers who can help decide what the Biden administration can accomplish. The loss of two Senate seats by Republicans in Georgia that turned into Democratic hands means the Senate is a 50-50 split. Vice President Kamala Harris can vote to break a tie.

The Senate will change leadership roles, he said. Charles “Chuck” Schumer, D-NJ, becomes the Majority Leader and Mitch McConnell, R-KY, becomes the Minority Leader. The ag committee chairs are Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Rep. David Scott, D-GA.

Secretary of Agriculture selection Tom Vilsack has proven to be an effective advocate for the livestock industry, Lane said, and the expected appointment of Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency appears to be a good pick. Regan has shown to be an effective collaborator and open minded toward concerns in the livestock industry in his role as the top environmental regulator for North Carolina.

Lane said it is important for cattle producers to stay engaged and also noted that while names in the Biden administration will have numerous similar names from the President Barack Obama’s administration (2009-2017). That administration also was trade oriented and it appears that many of those names could be included in the Biden team. Also, immigration reform that could be beneficial to agricultural interests may also become a priority.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].