Trump forms Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity

April 27, 2017 | Jim Lane

In Washington, the Trump Administration released its “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America” — and a report from the Interagency Task Force, something this order creates, is due in 180 days. For fans of the White House Rural Council — this replaces that.
It aims at regulatory, policy and legislative action. We’ll get to the membership and the preamble in a moment.
Let’s look at the goals
The Task Force shall identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote in rural America agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life, including changes that:
(i) remove barriers to economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America;
(ii) advance the adoption of innovations and technology for agricultural production and long-term, sustainable rural development;
(iii) strengthen and expand educational opportunities for students in rural communities, particularly in agricultural education, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
(iv) empower the State, local, and tribal agencies that implement rural economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs to tailor those programs to relevant regional circumstances;
(v) respect the unique circumstances of small businesses that serve rural communities and the unique business structures and regional diversity of farms and ranches;
(vi) require executive departments and agencies to rely upon the best available science when reviewing or approving crop protection tools;
(vii) ensure access to a reliable workforce and increase employment opportunities in agriculture-related and rural-focused businesses;
(viii) promote the preservation of family farms and other agribusiness operations as they are passed from one generation to the next, including changes to the estate tax and the tax valuation of family or cooperatively held businesses;
(ix) ensure that water users’ private property rights are not encumbered when they attempt to secure permits to operate on public lands;
(x) improve food safety and ensure that regulations and policies implementing Federal food safety laws are based on science and account for the unique circumstances of farms and ranches;
(xi) encourage the production, export, and use of domestically produced agricultural products;
(xii) further the Nation’s energy security by advancing traditional and renewable energy production in the rural landscape; and
(xiii) address hurdles associated with access to resources on public lands for the rural communities that rely on cattle grazing, timber harvests, mining, recreation, and other multiple uses.
Takeaways from the establishment of the goals
1. First of all, it’s going to be a report, and DC reports have a funny way of ending up on dusty shelves. Unless there’s something dramatic in there that appeals to Congress or the President.
2. Let’s not put food safety, water rights, relying on science, advancing technology adoption, giving a shout-out to small business, being sensitive to regional considerations, or big federal rural education programs on the “something big plate”. Those will fit in to the Farm Bill or fit into other broader initiatives led by other task forces — such as any educational or small business effort.
3. So what we have left are:
• Jobs
• Production and Export of agricultural products
• Advancing renewable Energy in the rural sector
• Accessing public lands for grazing, timber, mining and other resources
When you think about it, the third rolls up into the second — energy is an agricultural product these days — and the first (Jobs) is going to be a primary scorecard for measuring success of #2 and #3. Jobs are the scorecard
Which leaves us with:
• More production, especially exports
• Opening up public lands to facilitate same.
Back to the underlying rationale for a sec
Here’s the overarching preamble:
Section 1. Policy. A reliable, safe, and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply is critical to America’s national security, stability, and prosperity. It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture and protect the rural communities where food, fiber, forestry, and many of our renewable fuels are cultivated. It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, harm rural communities, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.
Here’s what the Obama-era Rural Council had in its preamble:
Section 1. Policy. Sixteen percent of the American population lives in rural counties. Strong, sustainable rural communities are essential to winning the future and ensuring American competitiveness in the years ahead. These communities supply our food, fiber, and energy, safeguard our natural resources, and are essential in the development of science and innovation. Though rural communities face numerous challenges, they also present enormous economic potential. The Federal Government has an important role to play in order to expand access to the capital necessary for economic growth, promote innovation, improve access to health care and education, and expand outdoor recreational activities on public lands.
Notice 3 things:
1. The emphasis on eliminating regulatory burden and promoting agriculture in the Trump preamble.
2. The dropping of references to improving access to health care and capital in the Obama version.
3. Interesting, this is a Task Force, not a Council — aimed to produce a report that presumably will inform the Farm Bill — rather than an on-going meet-up group.
Biggest shocker?
See that bolded reference to renewable fuels? By our best estimate that’s the first reference out in White House document to the existence of renewable fuels in more than five years.
Who is on the team?
Compared to the Obama Administration’s Rural Council, here are the changes:
Out
• The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
• The Secretary of Veterans Affairs
• The Council on Environmental Quality
In
• The US trade Representative
• The head of the National Science Foundation
This entire Task Force is going to be completely driven by Ag, of course. The other members are generally there to coordinate and monitor — and then to fight over the actual draft report when it is ready.
But here’s the full team, FYI.
Membership. (a) The Secretary of Agriculture shall serve as Chair of the Task Force, which shall also include:
(i) the Secretary of the Treasury;
(ii) the Secretary of Defense;
(iii) the Attorney General;
(iv) the Secretary of the Interior;
(v) the Secretary of Commerce;
(vi) the Secretary of Labor;
(vii) the Secretary of Health and Human Services;
(viii) the Secretary of Transportation;
(ix) the Secretary of Energy;
(x) the Secretary of Education
(xi) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
(xii) the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission;
(xiii) the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
(xiv) the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;
(xv) the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy;
xvi) the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers;
(xvii) the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;
(xviii) the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy;
(xix) the Administrator of the Small Business Administration;
(xx) the United States Trade Representative;
(xxi) the Director of the National Science Foundation; and
(xxii) the heads of such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the President or the Secretary of Agriculture may, from time to time, designate.
The Bottom Line
The wins are going to go to those agencies that don’t spend money, succeed mostly by elimination of regulation rather than writing new ones or basing their ambitions on narrow legislation (prior to say 2019), and that generate the most production in the shortest amount of time.
The signal could not be unmistakable that the RFS will be enforced so long as it results in domestic production, dollars and significant numbers of jobs for Rural America.
But it’s time for technology to deliver. This Administration wants winners, not good intentions and long, winning roads to prosperity based on arcane tax credits that redistribute the GDP.
Our take. What will save the RFS and make the case for advanced or any other kind of renewable fuel — for this Administration — is capacity-building, domestic use where possible, export otherwise.
The Complete Executive Order
It’s right here.

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