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US election wrap-up: feed industry implications

Written December 10, 2012

It’s the end of the year and the end of this Congress. Now what?

As I write, this I’ve started my 22nd year at the American Feed Industry Association, and the national election has been over for a few weeks. I still marvel that the U.S. spent well over $6 billion to elect the status quo. Congress, with a 9-11 percent approval rating, saw nearly 80 percent of the incumbents reelected, a staggering percentage. Generally, it must be believed it was everyone else’s congressperson that must be the problem. You’ve probably read enough about who did what and why Gov. Mitt Romney lost, so I’ll spare you that. So, what’s going to happen in D.C.?

The “fiscal cliff” is on everyone’s mind at this time, and by the time this prints, a resolution will hopefully be reached. Some will be happy and some will be sad, and it’s hoped the economy will relax and grow. We expect Congress will punt the detailed heavy lifting to next year, but you can’t keep punting forever. Or can you? We seem to have punted the national debt to several generations down the road, and now we’re sending it off to my grandson.

From a practical standpoint, there will be movement on rules and policies, as all the federal agencies had come to a virtual standstill before the election (one official called it the “crying time”). I’m beginning to see some movement of things at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the big rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act will likely be released soon, even though there’s a $1.2-billion price tag for industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator denied two governors’ petitions for relief from the Renewal Fuel Standard as expected. Unfortunately, she based her ruling on price and not on corn availability for feed and food production, which is what AFIA asked. What’s next?

AFIA’s lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for attempting to make “grain dust” a hazardous chemical under the Hazardous Chemical Standard continues.

There’s a large coalition opposing OSHA’s effort and attempting to get a reasonable settlement.

And then there’s the crop insurance folks are looking to pay out more than $20 billion in claims on this year’s corn crop, but the USDA’s spin is that it’s the “eighth largest corn crop ever.”

These are just some of the major actions transpiring at federal agencies. What worries me most is Capitol Hill, and the work that didn’t get done this session, including a Farm Bill. It doesn’t look like they’ll get that done either, or maybe some kind of farm program action will get rolled into the magical fiscal cliff solution. Again, the heavy lifting will get done next year.

On January 3, a new Congress—the 113th—is sworn in, and the cycle begins anew. Maybe this Congress will surprise us and reach a consensus and agree on what’s best for the country, but I doubt it. The American people spoke, but their message wasn’t clear. Now what?

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