With chronic opposition to President Donald Trump from seemingly all quarters, it’s hard to believe that there are people who voted for him, handed him the White House, and are pleased with his whirlwind agenda of carrying out his campaign promises. During the campaign, when it appeared that Trump was lagging behind Hillary Clinton, “he told everybody that he had a secret,” Colin Woodall remembers. Woodall is Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and spoke recently at the Lancaster Cattle Feeders Day in Pennsylvania. “The secret was that he owned the Silent Majority, those people whom he defined as those who are whipping, but they weren’t talking about it in church or to their social circles. They were just quiet about it.” To put it another way, Trump hoped they would show up to vote, and they did.
It not only sets in motion the Donald Trump cabinet, but changes and improvements that hopefully will ensue. Scott Pruitt will head up the Environmental Protection Agency. “For those of you who were here last year,” said Woodall, “I told you that EPA stood for ‘Eliminating Production Agriculture.’ With Mr. Pruitt, that might not be the case anymore. When you look at his track record as Attorney General of Oklahoma, you’ll note that he spent his entire career throwing rocks at EPA, criticizing EPA, and suing EPA. That bodes extremely well for us when we look at all of the burdensome regulations that we as an industry have had to deal with for quite some time.”
Sonny Perdue is a former governor of Georgia, and a veterinarian. “For a change,” Woodall said, “we’re going to have an agriculture secretary who knows which end of the cow does what.” Woodall touched on the Supreme Court pick by the President. He said that Trump was looking for someone who wasn’t in favor of legislating law from the bench, but rather a Constitutionalist who preferred to follow the letter of the law.
“The President has called out WOTUS by name!” Woodall exclaimed. For those who don’t remember, Waters of the United States is the change in jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. “Because it has already moved forward in the process, it’s going to take a little bit longer to unwind than some of the other proposed rules that are out there,” Woodall noted. “The President has said that he wants to eliminate 75 percent of the federal rules and regulations that are on the books right now,” he said, and mentioned an executive order that Trump signed which stated that “if any agency wants to proceed with new rule-making, they will first have to find two existing rules to be rescinded or repealed in order to move forward” with a replacement. It forces the agencies to be more accountable rather than relying on some regulatory panacea that protects and cures everything forever.
Pruitt is against, and has tried to roll back as Attorney General, politically correct stumbling blocks like particulate matter or greenhouse gases. He will now have a chance to do that as EPA Secretary. There are also burdensome rules at USDA that need to be undone. The proposed GIPSA Rule is a prime example. (GIPSA: Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration). USDA has had what’s called a Livestock Marketing Rule which, on the surface, sounds pretty good. Woodall clarified this: “This is the federal government deciding and defining what is fair in the cattle market.”
“Poultry growers in particular are vulnerable to market risks and concentration in the processor market,” says former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “All too often, processors and packers wield the power, and farmers carry the risk.” Woodall cited a scenario by saying that “if you are in certified angus beef…you get a premium for all the effort that you’re doing by being a part of that program, and your neighbor does not; the neighbor thinks it’s unfair that you are getting paid more under the GIPSA Rule. They could start suing throughout the supply chain.” That is a considerable amount of litigation, and would be a bonanza only for trial lawyers.
One area that beef growers are excited about is the return of antibiotics. In many of the technologies there continues to be a lot of pressure from the activist community as well as from some consumers to get farmers away from the use of such products. Regulations are starting to squeeze that. Getting down to brass political tacks, Woodall concluded with this harsh reality: “Trump has to move as fast as he is moving because he does not have four years to be successful. He has about 14 months — 18 months at most. The reason is that we’re going to have a midterm election (2018) which will decide control of the House and Senate again, and if people don’t like what’s going on, either one or both of those houses could flip. If that happens, he loses his ability to move forward on his agenda. That’s why he’s trying to move so fast.”