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WHAT TO EXPECT FOR ANIMAL AGRICULTURE IN A BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
Source: blog by Livestock Marketing Association's Chelsea Good and John Dillard with OFW Law

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Vice President Joe Biden will drop the "Vice" on January 20th as he becomes the 46th President of the United States. Handling the COVID-19 pandemic and climate are two priorities that are certain to shape animal agriculture policy going forward. However, there are many other topics, ranging from trade to competition issues, where animal agriculture could see potential action.

STAFFING - President-elect Biden has announced he will nominate Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. Most expect Secretary Vilsack will easily be confirmed by the Senate, landing him in a familiar role as Vilsack led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for eight years as President Obama's agriculture secretary. Vilsack is currently chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and was Governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007.

There will also be significant turnover in other political appointees at USDA. President-elect Biden will nominate Virginia Ag Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh to be the next deputy secretary of agriculture, the second highest position at USDA. If confirmed, Bronaugh would be the first woman of color to hold this position. Of particular interest for animal agriculture, USDA will have a new Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), a position currently held by Undersecretary Greg Ibach. However, it is not yet known who will fill these shoes. The MRP mission area includes the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) agency and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency. Following Secretary Perdue's realignment of numerous USDA offices in September 2017, Grain Inspection, the Packers and Stockyards Administration (formerly combined as GIPSA), and several programs from the Farm Service Agency are now housed under AMS as well.

COVID-19 RESPONSE - As we look at the policy priorities of the new administration, the first order of business will be addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For agriculture, this includes making sure people are safe while supply chains are operational. The next phase of COVID-19 response also involves vaccines becoming available to food and agriculture workers. Workers in high-density environments, such as slaughter and processing operations, are expected to be prioritized. However, many vaccine priority decisions will be made on the state level.

ENVIRONMENT - The Biden Administration has been clear the climate is a top priority. The head of President-elect Biden's USDA transition team, Robert Bonnie, is a Duke University executive in residence specializing in issues related to climate change and natural resource conservation, with a focus on rural America. Bonnie has called for leveraging Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds into a "carbon bank" that would pay farmers for practices that limit greenhouse emissions. Additionally, Bonnie was a project expert for the Climate 21 Project, which resulted in actionable advice for a government-wide climate response coordinated by the White House and accountable to the President.


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