Sara Wyant, Agri-Pulse Communications
Many of you think it's planting season, but in the world of politics, it's presidential campaign season. That means you're going to start hearing a lot more about how President Donald Trump and a field of more than 20 Democrats plan to make life better for those of you who farm and live in rural America.
Decades ago, political pundits frequently talked about the importance of farm and rural voters in presidential elections. During the early 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt connected the economics on the farms to jobs in the cities as he tried to build political support from both.
Should a plant-based food product that's developed to look and taste like a hamburger actually be labeled as meat? How about a food product that's been developed in a lab from animal cells? Those are some of the questions that lawmakers in at least 17 states across the West, Plains, and South are considering, primarily in response to folks who raise cattle, pork and poultry. These farmers and ranchers maintain that, unless it's from a slaughter plant, these products are "fake" and "misbranded." But some plant-based advocates are challenging these new laws in court.
Farm families in the Midwest have been fighting for their livelihoods as historic floodwaters killed livestock, destroyed bins, damaged homes and buildings and wiped out crucial roads and bridges. The bad news is that the devastating losses are likely to rise as the snow continues to melt across the nation's midsection. In Nebraska, flood costs are "in the millions" and approaching "a billion dollars of direct impact to agriculture," Nebraska Agriculture Director Steve Wellman said recently.
President Donald Trump likes to talk about how much he "loves our farmers" but his most recent budget once again tries to slash key programs that farmers have long supported and even the president previously supported. The whopping $4.75 trillion 2020 budget proposal calls for nearly a 5 percent increase in military spending, $8.6 billion for a border wall and sharp cuts in domestic programs, including a 15 percent cut in many farm bill programs that the president signed into law less than three months ago.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expects the White House to once again propose deep cuts in USDA's budget — and Perdue is expressing frustration with the document that's expected to be released in March. Perdue won't say how deep the proposed cuts will be, but he told reporters the budget will be "conservative" and that USDA "did our best to advocate for farmers." Deputy Budget Director Russ Vought wrote in a recent op-ed that the overall fiscal 2020 budget will propose "one of the largest spending reductions in history" in non-defense spending.
Farmers and ranchers have long been known for adapting and innovating, but new research challenges whether they are looking deep enough over the horizon to really win in the future. "There are six forces of change in the industry that are pretty compelling," says Brett Sciotto, CEO of Aimpoint Research, a global marketing research firm that has done extensive work analyzing current agricultural trends and identifying the "Farmer of the Future."
A host of departments and agencies critical to U.S. agriculture — including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency — are moving back into full swing now that the five-week partial government shutdown has come to at least a temporary end.
When Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue proposed moving both two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies — the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture — out of the D.C. metro area and into more affordable parts of the country last month, he thought the move made a great deal of common sense. With high-speed internet and modern technology, employees could be located almost anywhere and still be in touch with their "Beltway brethren."