National Legislative Update

(Jamie) And now for the national legislative update with Mary Kay Thatcher.
(Mary Kay) My name is Mary Kay Thatcher. I’m the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, work on lobbying issues in Washington, D.C., trying to affect members of Congress and how they vote and the Administration and how they set regulations. We’re back in full swing in 2016 with both the House and the Senate back in session. The Senate Ag Committee actually made some progress earlier on reauthorizing a Child Nutrition Bill, talking about school lunches. That was something that we hoped to accomplish in 2015, but we just ran out of time. But it will probably be one of the few things that really the Agriculture Committee is able to accomplish this year. We also anticipate that they will look at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. That’s another bill that has needed to be reauthorized and updated, hopefully done in
2015. But I think we’ll see that in very short order too. Other issues are going to be more difficult. One of the things that we were able to pass this year was to have the Senate vote that they did not support the Waters of the United States rule that the EPA has been pushing. That’s necessary because the House opposed it last year, but we never got it to a Senate vote. Unfortunately, we also had the President that vetoed that Legislation after the Senate and the House had both passed it. We do not have the 2/3 majority in either the House or the Senate to be able to override that Presidential veto, so we’re going to have to look for other ways. Fortunately right now we’re OK on that issue because the courts have ruled that they cannot proceed until the courts allow them to do so. But we don’t know how long that court ruling will stay. So, we’re really trying our best to get Congress to do something. We’re not sure whether it’s something we’re going to be able to do as long as this President is in office. But we’re certainly going to continue to send the message and we think it’s incredibly important that farmers and ranchers continue to talk about the impact that it would have on them at the local level and on their state. And we need to make sure that the House and the Senate continue to have votes on this issue because the more pressure we can put on the President the better chance we have of actually getting something done. Another issue that is going to be a real uphill road for us this year is passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement that this administration just finished negotiating. It accounts for about 40 percent of the gross domestic product around the world, so a really big deal for us, 12 countries involved and it would indeed open up our markets, give us a lot more access for exports. It’s something that’s very strongly supported by the Farm Bureau and virtually every other agricultural organization. Unfortunately Senator McConnell who is the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate has said he is just not sure this is something we ought to discuss until at least the lame duck session after the election in November. And Senator Hatch who is Chairman of the Finance Committee and also very important for this legislation because trade does go through there, has also said, yea I’m not sure this is the right time either. So, a big uphill battle for us. I think one of our other big issues is that we have to remember to focus on conservative Republicans especially, people that in general do support trade. But right now some of ’em saying, yea I support trade but I don’t want to pass TPP just because I don’t want to give this President any kind of support whatsoever. So, not only do we focus on the people that we’ve had issues with before on trade, but people that are also on your side. And I think it is indeed a win-win situation for agriculture. One last thing I would throw out is that this will be a short year because about July 1st will be sort of our deadline on getting most things done because both the Republican and the Democratic Conventions are in July, then you have the August break and then you are right on the election season. So, we’ve got about five more months to really accomplish what has to be done this year. And really important that we don’t waste any time in the next month or so.
(Jamie) Thanks for joining us. I’m your host Jamie Bloom and I hope you enjoyed today’s show. See you next week on Farm Factor – we’re here every Tuesday on AGam in Kansas.

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