Farming under a new US administration


he recent fractious US presidential election will sure- ly be analysed by historians for many years to come but for their part, US farmers just want to move for- ward with the respect and support they need from

the new president and agriculture secretary so they can earn a decent living now, and in the future. Countless media reports before the recent federal election indi- cated that US farmers were expected to vote largely for Trump, as they did in the 2016 election (recall, however, that US farm- ers have overwhelmingly voted for the Republican party no matter who the candidate was). They did indeed vote for Trump in large numbers, despite the fact that Trump started a trade war with China in 2018 which removed a key agricultural export market for them. That same year the Trump administra- tion levied US$ 34 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and China retaliated with tariffs on US agricultural products. Indeed, American Farm Bureau executive vice president Dale Moore recently stated that trade continues to be a central concern for US farmers, both with Pacific Rim countries and those across the Atlantic. He said: “We look forward to hope- fully making some progress with the European Union,” adding that “the other area that is always a perennial issue… is en- suring that farmers and ranchers have access to a ready, sta- ble, legal workforce… That’s going to be an ongoing chal- lenge that we’re still trying to find answers to”. US farmers are very concerned about higher taxes and new regulations that the Biden administration is expected to in- troduce. Biden’s ‘Plan for Rural America’ frightens farmers be- cause, among its other ‘green’ goals, it has set a goal of net-zero emissions for US agriculture. Farmers wonder what this will mean for them at a time when they are already under immense pressure.

Tom Vilsack “an unwise choice” Biden’s selection for agriculture secretary is Tom Vilsack. He also headed the department during the two terms of the Obama administration. Reaction from the US agriculture community – and beyond – has been both swift and ex- tremely negative. In the British newspaper The Guardian, George Goehl recently called the appointment “appalling” and Vilsack himself “a corporate ‘yes man’ and former lobbyist

▶ POULTRY WORLD | No. 1, 2021 9

On 20 January 2021 a new administration was installed in Washington, DC. The new agriculture secretary in the Biden administration is a face known to many: Tom Vilsack. His record from his previous time in the same job is considered dismal by many in the agricultural community.

with a dismal record in his previous time as secretary”. Goehl, who is executive director of a national community ac- tivist organisation called People’s Action, describes Vilsack’s previous tenure as “littered with failures, ranging from dis- torting data about Black farmers and discrimination, to bow- ing to corporate conglomerates”. He added that during Vil- sack’s time at the helm “the USDA kowtowed to agribusiness lobbyists and corporate interests, squandering a golden opportunity to rein in meat processing monopolies”. As far back as 2000, the USDA recognised that meatpacking concentration raises important policy issues. “If larger packers realise lower costs, then concentration, by reducing industry costs, can lead to improved prices for consumers and live- stock producers,” the USDA stated in a factsheet from over two decades ago. “However, because they face fewer com- peti tors, meatpackers could reduce prices paid to livestock producers, and they may be able to raise meat prices charged to wholesalers and retailers.” Goehl added that the first time Vilsack headed the USDA, it “foreclosed on Black farmers who had outstanding

The newly-ap- pointed United States secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, spoke at a cam- paign stop for Democratic presidential can- didate, former vice president Joe Biden, at the LOFT on Jefferson, in Burlington, Iowa.


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