Legislative Watch: Vilsack confirmation hearing set; Impeachment trial delayed; New Republicans on House Ag Committee.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

January 29, 2021

6 Min Read
Hog farm barns pigs FDS operation.JPG
National Pork Board

President Joe Biden believes agriculture has an important role to play in addressing climate change. When signing the climate change executive order, Biden said, “We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.”

The executive order stated: “America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.”  

It directs USDA to “collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how to use federal programs to encourage adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans.”

The executive order also:

  • Established a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

  • Paused new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

  • Established a goal of doubling offshore wind energy by 2030.

  • Committed to the goal of conserving at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030, including a stakeholder engagement from agriculture and forest landowners, fisherman, local officials, etc.

  • Established a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to create jobs to conserve and restore public lands and waters, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agriculture sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation and address the changing climate. 

Last year, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance was formed to ensure farmers, forest owners, food sector, state governments, and environmental advocates have a seat at the table to help guide the development of federal climate legislation. It released 40 recommendations aimed at helping farmers financially benefit from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with climate change. 

The Alliance members are the American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Food Industry Association, National Association of Departments of Agriculture, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union and The Nature Conservancy. 

Vilsack confirmation hearing set

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold Tom Vilsack’s confirmation hearing for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 2. Vilsack is expected to be confirmed given strong support from the agricultural community.

A coalition of over 120 agricultural associations and a group of nearly 50 agricultural companies and cooperatives are supporting the nomination of Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture.

In a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee, the associations wrote, “Secretary Vilsack understands and embraces as USDA’s mission the advancement of U.S. food and agriculture for the benefit of all in the U.S. and countless consumers beyond our shores” and “is ready to lead the peoples’ department and American food and agriculture broadly to meet environmental challenges, enhance diversity and inclusion, and strengthen food security and build rural prosperity through expanded trade and development of the bioeconomy, all with broad consumer benefits.”

Those signing the association letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Animal Health Institute, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute and U.S. Rice Federation.

A similar letter was signed by nearly 50 companies and cooperatives. 

USDA temporarily suspends farm loans, debt collections and foreclosures

USDA announced it would temporarily suspend past-due debt collection and foreclosures on distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs because of COVID-19. More information can be found here.

Impeachment trial delayed

The Senate was sworn in this week for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. The trial is delayed until Feb. 8 to give Trump’s legal team time to prepare. Early expectations are Trump will be acquitted.

There is a disagreement over the constitutionality of the trial. Several Republicans are arguing that Trump should not be tried because he is no longer in office. An impeachment trial should only be used for removing someone from office, and Trump is now a private citizen. Democrats point out that there is precedent because the Senate tried Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876 after he had already resigned.   

After the Senate was sworn in as jurors for the impeachment trial, Senator Ran Paul, R.-Ky., called for a vote on the constitutionality of the trial. Paul argued that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. His amendment was defeated 45-55 with only five Republicans voting against Paul.  However, this test vote gives a strong indication there will not be enough votes for conviction as it takes a two-thirds majority. 

Tai receives ag support for USTR

One hundred fifteen agricultural and food associations are supporting the nomination of Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), citing her experience in trade policy and the mission of USTR. 

In a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the associations said Tai has demonstrated “the ability to build bipartisan support for trade policies.”

They further noted, “We believe that Ms. Tai has the experience and expertise to secure greater market access for U.S. products and ensure enforcement of clear and fair rules with our trade partners so U.S. food and agriculture workers and our industry sectors may fairly compete in the global economy.”

Those signing the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Farmers for Free Trade, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute and North American Renderers Association.

Ag supports Regan for EPA

A group of agricultural organizations are supporting the nomination of Michael Regan as EPA administrator recognizing his experience as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and how he listened to all stakeholders including farmers and ranchers. 

The organizations said in a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: “During his tenure, he has worked to find practical, sound solutions to myriad environmental issues in the state, while ensuring science and data guided his decisions. He also understood the impact those decisions would have on rural communities and the families that live and work there.”  

Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Crop Life America, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and North American Meat Institute.

Seven new Republicans on House Ag Committee

The House Republicans leadership announced its committee assignments for the 117th Congress.  Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee are Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), ranking member, Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.), Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), Mike Cloud (R-Texas),  Tracy Mann (R-Kan.), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Barry Moore of (R-Ala.), Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), and Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.).

The seven new Republican members are Cloud, Mann, Fennstra, Miller, Moore, Cammack and Fischbach. 


Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

Subscribe to Our Newsletters
National Hog Farmer is the source for hog production, management and market news

You May Also Like