Editor's Notebook: We'll All Need Patience

March 18, 2017 02:03 AM

Farmers have always struck me as positive people; otherwise, how could you plant a new crop every year? From my vantage point, that’s never been more apparent than in the months following the past election. 

Ever since President Trump won, more than a few farmers have shared with me their high hopes for friendlier taxes, better trade deals and more workable environmental regulations, among other things. After all, we heard a lot of campaign rhetoric about these issues and have been led to believe change could go ag’s way.

Considering the rush of activity during the president’s first weeks, it might seem reasonable to expect results before you harvest this year’s crop. 

But nearly every Washington insider I’ve talked to has shared that broad, sweeping changes like those promised  often take years. 

John Goldberg, who served as science adviser to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee from the mid-1990s until recently, has helped navigate lots of farm bills. He says farmers should “temper their expectations” for quick results. Rewriting regulations and negotiating legislation “is a tremendous process” that “will require a surgical, rather than a meat cleaver, approach,” he says. And as always, the Devil will be in the details. 

For example, the new requirement to cut two regulations for each one introduced could have mixed impact on farmers. Goldberg told me he’s not yet clear whether the tolerance levels for crop inputs EPA establishes will be considered “regulations” in this way.

Trade will require patience, too. Mary Kay Thatcher of the American Farm Bureau Federation says the bilateral trade deals the administration says will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership aren’t fast. “They take a long time negotiating,” she says. 

What this tells me is we’ll all need patience to see how things play out.

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