Washington Update

January 21, 2021

On Wednesday, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. As expected, one of his first actions was a regulatory freeze (See reg freeze memo). 

The Administration is moving quickly to fill slots, and USRPA joined with other agricultural organizations in support of President Biden’s Secretary of Agriculture nominee, Tom Vilsack, in this letter to Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Boozman.  There were over 120 signatories from a robust cross-section of federal and state food and agriculture associations who joined in signing the letter. 

President Biden has also nominated Virginia Ag Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh to be the next deputy secretary of agriculture, the second-highest position at USDA usually in charge of day-to-day operations. Bronaugh, who has run the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 2018, served as Virginia state director for USDA's Farm Service Agency during the Obama administration, starting in 2015. Bronaugh also has a doctorate in career and technical education from Virginia Tech and spent time as the dean of the College of Agriculture for Virginia State University, where she oversaw extension, research, and educational programming. Other appointments included individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C. staff list in addition to the announcement of three Deputy Under Secretaries in the Areas of Nutrition, Rural Development and Marketing and Regulatory Programs USDA undersecretaries.  Action on the Senate side of Capitol Hill is still largely dominated by the organization of the new 50-50 Congress along with impeachment. Rumors indicate that articles of impeachment could arrive as early as this week, with much concern about the effect that would have on the Biden Administration's initiatives. Chair Stabenow is interested in reauthorizing children’s nutrition programs (which has lapsed) as a priority and then moving to climate change. Reports indicate that Stabenow wants agriculture and forestry to be leaders on climate policy employing voluntary, producer-led initiatives that create carbon markets for producers. In addition, there are rumors that the Committee will have a hearing on Secretary Vilsack’s nomination at the end of next week or the following week, however, most believe that is an ambitious schedule that will not be met, especially with the impeachment pending.

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