Sugaronline Editorial - Place your bets By Meghan Sapp

Published: 01/13/2017, 1:28:00 PM

There is no excuse to still not have a Secretary of Agriculture a week before the US presidential inauguration.



There is no excuse to still not have a Secretary of Agriculture a week before the US presidential inauguration.

 


Love him or hate him, US president-elect Donald Trump is full of surprises. During the campaign, he made promises to “drain the swamp” and then promptly filled his cabinet with swamp monsters. Since winning the electoral vote to become the next president, he has continued to campaign while remaining light on actual policy statements, leaving many to wonder what it is he actually intends to do.

Instead, most has become conjecture based on his cabinet appointments. The ethanol industry remains confident that Trump will support them yet one of his closest advisors, Carl Icahn, is a staunch opponent of the Renewable Fuel Standard, his appointee as Secretary of Energy is former Texas governor Rick Perry who demanded the Environment Protection Agency cut mandated volumes while his choice to lead the EPA itself has a legal track record of opposing the blending mandate and biofuels overall.

In spite of those choices, the industry says the Trump Administration will support biofuels [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biofuels-industry-may-have-the-juice-to-endure-to-trumps-epa-chief-pick/], and Iowa governor-cum-new ambassador to China has been promised that ethanol is safe. How safe is safe, exactly?

The sugar industry is similarly confident that Trump will be on its side, supporting the sugar program in the next farm bill that will be up for an always-controversial vote in the next Congressional session. Yet the hunt for a Secretary of Agriculture has dragged on so long that there’s rumour that the transition team is accepting CVs for the position rather than having a clear view on the who and getting that who to agree to the job.

Instead, the American Sugarbeet Association points to the known unknowns, like the nominee for Secretary of Commerce who it says understands how foreign competition hurts domestic producers so should stick up for the sugar industry against those who would dump sugar on the global market while the would-be trade representative will have eye on what Mexico is doing that could also damage US sugar producers.

With major issues like the farm bill, sugar labeling, GMOs, trade with Mexico and the public attacks on sugar, the ASA and the rest of the sugar industry is going to need a lot more support and a stronger game plan than just banking on hopes. They, along with the rest of US agriculture, are going to need a strong leader at the head of the USDA to keep the economy running while Congress dukes it out internally and the White House tries to get its head on straight.

The Secretary of Agriculture is traditionally the third cabinet member to be chosen or announced but it’s the only seat still left unfilled with just a week to go before the inauguration. Ag is worried as it should be, so it’s not time to pretend everything is going to be fine but find ways to work around a very not-fine situation and make sure as many contingency plans are in place as possible.

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