Washington Watch: Key Policy Issues for 2019

November 15, 2018 03:00 PM
 
Pay close attention to these policy issues in 2019.

The midterm elections are finally behind us. The Republicans expanded their grip on the Senate, while the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. This new political landscape provides an opportunity for progress on some key ag issues, says Jim Wiesemeyer, Washington policy analyst for Pro Farmer and Farm Journal. He and John Dillard, attorney at OFW Law in Washington, D.C., overview the policy issues that could impact your operation in the year ahead.

Trade Policy.

“In terms of what affects everyone’s wallet, trade stands heads and shoulders above any other issue,” Dillard says. Expect continued uncertainty around the trade relationship between the U.S. and China. Because China’s lack of buying creates a void for U.S. ag products, Dillard predicts, the administration will heavily pursue trade deals with other countries. “But trade deals take time,” he says. “I would be surprised if anything is in place for 2019, possibly they could have something in place by 2020.” For future trade agreements, Dillard expects the administration will take a piecemeal approach, pursuing one country at a time versus a multicountry agreement.

Nuisance Lawsuits. 

Earlier this year, a federal jury decided Smithfield Foods should pay $473.5 million to neighbors of three North Carolina hog farms for unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors and flies. The case is subject to appeal and could set a precedent for other cases. “I think it will provide economic incentives for a lot of copycat lawsuits to emerge all over the country,” Dillard says.

Immigration Reform. 

Wiesemeyer predicts a 60% chance Congress will pass some form of immigration reform in the first half or so of 2019. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is a big proponent for immigration reform, will likely become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The impetus will be there to get immigration reform,” he says.

Farm Bill. 

The priorities for Congress in the lame duck session are funding the government past Dec. 7, pending appointments and the farm bill, Wiesemeyer says. The farm bill will likely be passed before the end of 2018. “I’m well over 80% odds that will happen,” he says. “The wild card is if President Donald Trump insists on work requirements for food stamps.”

Glyphosate Lawsuits.

Two glyphosate lawsuits are moving through the California judicial system. In August, a jury found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by Dewayne Johnson alledging Roundup caused him cancer. The jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million. This case will be appealed, Dillard says. “If it stands on appeal, there’s no turning back; it will be like asbestos. Currently there are 8,000 other lawsuits filed on the same basis.” 

Proposition 65 calls for cancer warnings on products containing glyphosate, but it was temporarily blocked. “It will be interesting to see if it stands up to appeal,” Dillard says. “Some companies would likely tell suppliers they need certified glyphosate-free grain or other products. But I don’t think it’s realistic to move away from glyphosate.”

New Faces in Congress. 

For 2019, around 85 new lawmakers join the House. “That really increases the educational thrust for farm groups and lobbyists to get to those new members and their new staffs,” Wiesemeyer says. “Farm, trade, energy and regulatory policy are all very complex. Aggies know this stuff, but a lot of the new members and staff do not.” Education will be vital in the months ahead.

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