Forecasting South Dakota's Agriculture Industry Under Biden

Dec 30, 2020

With President-elect Joe Biden set to assume the office in January, many South Dakotans are wondering what a Biden presidency means for the state’s largest industry of agriculture.

 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem anticipates a tense relationship with the incoming presidential administration.

Noem says the differences in policy could create problems for South Dakota producers, pointing to taxes and clean energy policies as two major areas of concern.

“I expect the road could be a little bit rough under the Biden administration, with some of the policies that they’ve embraced. We can expect that they may try to raise taxes. They have said that. Similarly, we can expect that they will try and eliminate fossil fuels by passing the Green New Deal, and whatever else the administration might do, it would certainly give us a lot more regulation.”

Noem says she worries federal agencies will view state agencies in a subordinate role rather than a partnership.

According to his official website Biden has endorsed the green new deal as the frame work to address climate change and has proposed a tax plan that would change or overturn many of the Trump administration tax policies.

Kevin McNew is the Chief Economist for the Farmer’s Business Network. He says many of the new policies could be good for South Dakota producers. McNew says changes between presidential administrations don’t tend to have big impacts to individual producers.

“Farmers are pretty immune to overall changes in the White House and who’s kinda controlling the levers. There’s some pretty fundamental differences between what President Trump Did and what President-elect Biden has signaled he will do and so I think there are some reasonable expectations that there'll be differences going forward.”

McNew says changes will likely involve sustainability and climate issues like promoting use of carbon friendly cover crops. He says the market has already adopted many of these changes.

“We have a very active regenerative Ag program where we do work with private companies to adopt sustainable practices, so there’s markets in place where farmers have paid to take on certain production practices. So it’s not something brand new. Many farmers are already participating or they’re aware of it.”

President-elect Biden’s pick for the Secretary of Agriculture has eased some concerns in the ag community.

Tom Vilsack was Iowa’s Governor for eight years and served as President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture.

Hunter Roberts is the Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Roberts says Vilsack was a good pick for that position and has a history of working across party lines.

“From the department’s perspective – and my personal perspective – working with him on biofuels has been great. He’s been a great advocate for ethanol and other biofuels. Ethanol’s a big part of the way we utilize our corn in South Dakota, so that’s definitely great news.”

Vilsack has defended the use of biofuels as effective for fighting emissions ensuring energy security and creating jobs in rural areas.

Brett Kenzy is the Region Three Director of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America or R-CALF USA.

Kenzy says he is skeptical of Tom Vilsack’s return as Ag Secretary.

“Am I excited at the prospect of a new administration with Mr. Vilsack? I want to be, but I don’t know that I am.”

Kenzy says he hopes secretary Vilsack is willing to work with independent cattle producers to ensure a more competitive environment. He credits the Obama administration for trying to tackle the longstanding competition issues facing small producers but previous efforts fell apart.

“Obama did take a run at it and Vilsack – I actually saw Vilsack speak in person – he was there and he assured us that he was going to take care of it but it – I would love to hear him tell us why, to be honest. That would be a tremendous story. I would love to know, in his opinion, why that effort was derailed.”

Kenzy points to the incoming Biden Administration's policies on reduced red meat consumption and a move away form fossil fuels as reasons for concern. He says there is a need for environmental protections but warns against over legislating the problem.

“Common sense climate care can be a good thing but if it gets carried away, you will see empty shelves in America again, I promise you.”

Kenzy says the goal of family producers is to take care of the land for the next generation. He argues politicians get too much credit and says real change starts with citizens.

-Contact SDPB’s David Scottby email.