Congress Has Big Shoes to Fill During Ag Policymaking in 2021

Analysts continue to speculate what ag policymaking is going to look like in the Post-Roberts-Peterson-Conaway Era. Longtime House Ag Chair Collin Peterson lost his re-election bid, Ranking Member Michael Conaway of Texas retired, as did Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas. Jay Truitt, the owner of the consulting firm Policy Solutions, LLC., spoke during the 2020 NAFB virtual convention.

“The leadership voids that have been created by the departures of some key people will maybe end up being the dominating factor in how the next farm bill comes together. It’s nothing against those who we all anticipate will be the new leaders that move into the House Ag Committee, and you can start guessing how it will work out on the Senate side as well.”

He says Congress will be missing a lot of experience when it comes to leadership next session.

“You can’t just remove a Pat Roberts and a Collin Peterson, who bring 45 years of historical perspective and know all the mistakes that we’ve made, in addition to things we did that kind of worked right or that we could afford, or that seemed to give us the biggest bang for our buck. You can’t remove them from the process and just think it’s going to be the same. The rest of the people that sat in those rooms don’t have that same level of expertise and experience.”

Truitt says the typical geographic divisions in U.S. agriculture will likely continue into 2021, even with a new administration in the White House and new leadership in Congress.

“We’re still going to have Southern versus Midwest, and some Northern and specialty crops versus everybody else. The livestock folks will still pretend like they don’t care what’s in Title 1 and Title 2, but the truth is it will matter immensely what the conservation program looks like. President-elect Biden promised he was going to take a look at possibly doing more set-asides and taking some acres out of production. That will send some fear into the livestock sector because they like oversupplies of all those things to keep prices at a moderate level.”

What will the void in leadership mean when Congress begins to write a new farm bill? Truitt says it probably won’t mean substantial changes in the process.

“I think, as, in the past, somebody will rise to the occasion, and we’ll see somebody take those reins in both the House and Senate, and they’ll write the bill. I don’t know that administrations, in the end, get to do more than just accepting what comes to them for the most part. Maybe on money, it’s different, but on the actual policy, maybe it won’t be as different as we think. But there is no way that you can deny that the voids created by Collin Peterson and Pat Roberts not being in the room, Mr. Conaway as well, and a handful of other members, that’ll be a game-changer for some people.”