While Democrats will continue to control the House following the 2020 elections and Republicans will likely continue to control the Senate, the divides in both chambers will be narrower than in the current Congress.
That makes it more important than ever for the dairy industry and every other group wanting to advance an agenda to work together, Andy Novakovic, a dairy economist with Cornell University, said during the latest “Dairy LiveStream” podcast.
“We’ve been in a system where there’s a lot of pressure for all the Democrats to vote one way and all the Republicans to vote another way,” he said.
It’ll be interesting to find out if the delicately balanced structure is going to end up paralyzing Congress or create an environment in which coalitions are built, he said.
For the dairy industry, it will be important for producers and processors to work together on issues before they go to the House and Senate, he said.
“It’s going to be just all the more important if you’re going to get something done for an industry to move together with some sort of unity voice and try to deal with those issues and not require or expect that the United States Congress is somehow going to adjudicate that for us,” he said.
Novakovic said he’s optimistic about immigration and trade but tends to be more pessimistic when it comes to environmental and nutritional policy.
He also thinks legacy programs, such as SNAP food stamps, federal milk marketing orders and crop insurance, are safe in the new Congress and administration.
Other dairy insiders on the podcast weighed in on which policy and programs related to dairy might be on shaky ground.
Paul Bleiberg, senior vice president of government relations for the National Milk Producers Federation, said the Dairy Margin Coverage program should be safe.
It was enacted in the last farm bill and is authorized for at least another seven years, he said.
But he thinks the coronavirus food assistance effort created this year is on shaky ground.
“I’m sure there may be some additional COVID relief in the new year, but it may look very different, especially the food box program. I wouldn’t expect to see that one back,” he said.
Dave Carlin, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for International Dairy Foods Association, expects a strong focus on nutrition from the incoming administration.
“I think the SNAP program, which obviously affects our industry in a big way, is safe and will expand,” he said.
But he’s uncertain about the hard-won battle to get 1% flavored milk in school nutrition programs and hopes USDA doesn’t go back on that issue.
“We’re going to keep a close eye on the 1% flavored milk in schools because that to me could be a little shaky depending on, again, the team that’s put in place at USDA,” he said.