Written by: Cory Harris | January 24, 2020
Last week in Washington proved to be a busy one as the American Feed Industry Association saw success on two major policy priorities, the signing of a phase one trade agreement with China and the Senate’s passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Both agreements are critically important tools of foreign market access for the U.S. animal food industry, but equally important is the momentum they bring toward finally getting things done in a Congress that has been frustratingly gridlocked.
In the current political landscape consumed by partisan rancor, impeachment proceedings and the presidential election, the ability of Congress to finally approve the long-awaited agreements by such a wide, bipartisan margin is hopefully the sign of a narrative that party leaders will use to show off their strength. A rhetoric where parties show they can lead by legislating.
While in reality it’s unlikely that much legislation actually gets finalized in a year where Congress is scheduled to be in session less time than they are in, the Democrats seem to be attempting to shape this narrative. Speaker Pelosi’s work to finalize negotiations with the administration and secure her chamber’s passage of the USMCA agreement, as well as the government funding package, all before the holiday recess can be seen as a good-faith effort to show voters that her party is able to do their day-job regardless of the time consumed by House impeachment proceedings.
This trend seems to be continuing into the New Year as well. We’re now hearing that the House is looking to introduce a bill for a new $1 trillion infrastructure package next week. Hoping to leverage the momentum gained through the vast bipartisan support of USMCA, Democrats look to grow political approval by championing this issue that is near and dear to much of President Trump’s voter base and has long been promised by the President. Similarly, there is a lot of talk around Capitol Hill that House leadership is pushing for an expedited appropriations process to actually finish on time without the use of continuing resolutions to circumvent funding deadlines.
Though the norm around Washington is to expect little out of election years (especially presidential election years), it seems this year Congress has some desire to buck that trend. This may present the agriculture and animal food industries with opportunities to pick up some small victories in the pieces of legislation that do get finished. An infrastructure package may be an opportunity to secure additional broadband funding or to address transportation issues critical to the agriculture industry. Appropriations will challenge us to defend the new funding we secured for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine feed ingredient reviews. And other bills later this year may allow us the chance to weigh in on issues like hemp, transportation and future trade agreements.
The moral of the story is simple. As an industry, we need to be on our toes to watch out for the small chances to make a difference this year. Be sure to let AFIA know what new challenges are impacting your business and what issues you’re following. Watch out for times when your help is needed through AFIA action advisories or by reaching out to your members of Congress. If we see an opportunity to achieve success on a policy position, that window of opportunity may be small, so please take a moment to help.
Perhaps most importantly, keep an eye on the future. One of the easiest ways to shape policy is to shape the opinion of candidates before they become policymakers. Look for opportunities to interact with all candidates in races that impact your business. Whether you invite them to your facility or take an evening to attend a meet and greet, take the time to educate them on what the animal food industry and your company mean to the seat they are running for.