News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
on February 8, 2012
View from Washington

The national election: Do we really need more than 30 primaries/caucuses?

Most people don't realize the impact -- positive and negative -- that an election has on major industries.

As I write this, the Florida “winner-take-all” Republican primary has just ended, and many are saying the Republican presidential candidate has been decided. Maybe by the time you read this it will have changed, but I doubt it.

So, did you watch any of the debates—if that’s what you would call them? I watched one that was referred to as “raucous” by the media. Although entertaining, the focus on moon bases and mutual funds seemed to have riled up some, including Rep. Ron Paul. I feel his pain.

I remember my college American history professor lecturing that Alexander Hamilton strongly preferred that the electoral college elect our president instead of direct election because he thought people, i.e. the electorate, were an “illiterate mass.” My professor’s words, not mine. I don’t think Hamilton envisioned primaries, but if he had, he might have had a different opinion.


Most folks don’t realize the election of a president, the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate every four years has a major impact on U.S. industries because of the serious, differing views of candidates on business, regulation and the “role of government.” The current Administration has been very enforcement-oriented and more “protective” of the populace than the previous administration — a sort of “government-must-protect-the-people-from-evil-industry” approach. Is that good? It certainly has been costly.

The president, as head of the executive branch of our government, controls, by his appointments, almost all federal regulatory philosophy and program efforts except those legally independent of his grasp, such as the Federal Reserve Bank. This is enormous power when you look at the laws regulating the feed industry administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Change direction  

It typically takes almost two years after a presidential election for the executive agencies to change direction and for the industry to find out what’s new. For instance, FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced last year FDA was changing its enforcement efforts from pursuing consent degrees to filing directly against company CEOs for serious violations. That woke up some company boards in the industry and got the attention of a few CEOs at the same time. That’s a long-term issue and one likely to carry over to the next administration.

As a representative of an industry trade group, I work with any elected or appointed official. We have to, in order to educate them and allow our industry to operate in a reasonable business environment. It’s a lot of work to educate a new administration and even when agency heads leave after two years, education is still required.

I once heard a story about an esteemed medical man, who, when appointed FDA commissioner, was reputed to have said, “We regulate animal drugs?! What else do we do that I didn’t know?” This gentleman was both an M.D. and a food and drug attorney.

I wish "Super Tuesday" was over, don’t you Mr. Hamilton? It would help me think about next year’s work.

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