How Farmers View Incoming President Joe Biden
January 19, 2021
Many uncertainties always lie ahead when a new president takes office. No one has a crystal ball to know exactly what path they will go down. You can only hope for the best. So, with that said, are Pennsylvania farmers hopeful about the future with President Joe Biden coming into office? What effect do they think he and his administration will have on the farming industry? According to https://joebiden.com/rural-plan/, President Biden says he will stand up for American farmers, ranchers and fishers and includes supporting new farmers, support pro-worker and pro-family-farmer, rancher, and fisher trade policies and promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels. A November 9 article posted on Foodinstitute.com said some farmers are concerned about Biden’s administration having tougher regulations and other restrictions.
Two farmers echoed those concerns. Donald, a farmer from Thompson, Susquehanna County, said he is not looking forward to Biden being in office. “He is for the "Green New Deal" which wants to get rid of cows and farms. He also wants to increase environmental regulations which will affect water runoff on fields and manure spreading, conservation practices, etc. Whole milk will not be
returning to schools as he will stick with Michele Obama's plan on that. I do not see any positives for farming with him in office,” he said.
Bob Rutledge has 120 Black Angus steer that he raises for beef on his Damascus Township, Wayne County, farm and also sells hay. “Hopeful is not a word that I would use to describe Biden,” he said. Rutledge, a strong President Donald Trump supporter, said while he is not opposed to protecting the environment, he is against regulations like Waters of the US Rule or WOTUS. “The Obama Administration tried to declare every waterway in Pennsylvania under that rule and I am afraid regulations like that will come back. It’s an extension of the Clean Water Act. It redefines what a waterway is. Anything you want to do on your farm, you would need to get a permit for. I am also a builder and it makes it impossible to get a septic permit for anything. I fear going back down that road again. We might get to proceed with gas drilling here (currently, there is a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin where Rutledge’s farm is located, but there is litigation in process to reverse the ban). Biden is also not a fan of energy exploration or fracking,” he said. When asked if he thinks Biden, a Scranton, Lackawanna County native, who moved with his family to Delaware at age 10, understands the plight of the working man, including farmers from Northeastern Pennsylvania Rutledge said no. “There is a lack of common sense. He has been a politician his whole life. He is there to serve himself. He’s not really from Northeast PA. He left at 10. He doesn’t have a clue. You can’t tax a business to death for those who don’t want to work. I am more on the Trump side to let businesses grow. I liked Trump for his policies, not his demeanor. He’s a businessman and understands how business works. Taxing it is not the way to make it thrive. He (Biden) doesn’t understand the common everyday man. He’ll have to prove me wrong to change my mind,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has a different perspective and is hopeful about the future of a Biden presidency. Farm Bureau Communications Director Liam Migdail said there are a few areas in which they are optimistic. “Trade is the first. Biden looks to favor some new international trade deals, which are so important. A farmer’s soybeans, for example, going to China. You are still benefiting from expanded trade and those trade deals are very important to farmers. Things were a little rocky in 2017, 2018 and early 2019 when the Trump Administration imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, etc. because China hit back on agriculture. Any time there is a trade dispute, it hurts the farmers. They turned around and put tariffs on agricultural products. It escalated a trade war. In 2019, Trump did establish a Phase 1 trade deal that had China agree to buy a lot of agricultural products from the U.S. We came out of it okay and we still expect to ramp up where we want it to be. We only hit 70% of the mark last year due to COVID. Trump also reached a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico after doing away with NAFTA. Not a huge deal but it was modernized and now American farmers are getting more access to Canada and bringing more dairy there. We are also looking at opportunities to expand trade deals with the UK due to BREXIT being in place. We also think Biden might get involved with TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership - a trade agreement among many nations that Trump withdrew the U.S. from),” he said.
Migdail said another area that farmers are in a good position to be a good partner in is climate change. “Farmers have a lot of land. They are interested in the mitigation of the release of carbon from the soil and want to keep it sequestered. They can manage crops and manage the soil. But, participating in these types of technology is expensive. We would like to see investment in public programs, grants, etc. We are in favor of incentive based programs as opposed to those that are mandated across the board. Farmers want to keep the soil healthy. They want to keep carbon in the soil. But, they want ‘a seat at the table.’ We want to work with people but we want incentives, we want a say versus being told what to do. We have been happy with the pick of Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture and Michael Regan leading the EPA. He has a good reputation as North Carolina’s environmental secretary,” he said.
However, Migdail said they are keeping an eye on Waters of the U.S. rule. “Trump repealed it. We led a lawsuit to block it. We agreed with intent for clean water but we are concerned about what can be counted as a waterway and what couldn’t. The bureaucracy, for example, of what type of pesticide can be used on a farm to keep waterways clean. The obligations weren’t clear. A farmer would have to hire a lawyer and engineer to make sense of it. They would have to spend a lot of time and money. It had such a broad definition of what a waterway is. The way it was worded would shut down a lot of farms. It’s probably weighing heavily on a lot of farmers' minds. Trump scaled it back. We don’t know what the Biden Administration will do on that. It comes back to having a seat at the table,”
As in all things, time will tell.