Change comes to Washington, D.C.; USA Rice is ready
By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
Every four or eight years, the country gets a new president, and he’s usually not from the party of the sitting president. In fact, only twice in modern history has a U.S. president handed the White House to a successor from his own party. Ronald Reagan did it in 1988 for George H.W. Bush, and before that you have to go back to Calvin Coolidge who, in 1929, turned the presidency over to fellow Republican Herbert Hoover.
Bill Clinton couldn’t do it. George W. Bush couldn’t do it, and now Barack Obama also missed the mark. It seems to indicate that the name of the game in Washington, D.C.—at least in the Executive Branch—is “Change is never too far off.”
The exact course the 45th president will set us on is unclear as I write this—as you read this, we may be just a few days away from inauguration day. But the one thing of which we can be sure is change is in the air. Some of those changes are encouraging, others give us pause. We’ll work through them all.
Trade challenges with new administration President-elect Donald Trump seems to take a dim view of government over-regulation—something he sees in a lot of corners—and something I think most of our industry would agree with.
Over-regulation stifles innovation, slows growth and hurts our competitiveness—especially when we’re competing with countries where business regulation is—let’s just say, not as intense as it is here.
On trade issues, however, it is likely we will have our work cut out for us. Certainly abandoning lopsided trade agreements that put the United States at a disadvantage is in all of our interests as Americans.
But some of the trade agreements he’s taken aim at, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, are actually pretty good for rice. And his threats to toss the U.S.-Cuba relationship back into the deep freeze are difficult for us to get behind, considering how hard we’ve worked to reopen
this key market for you.
Farm Bill focus remains hazy
Where the Trump administration will be on agriculture issues—like the writing of the new Farm Bill that will occur during his first term—is hazy. The cast of characters in Congress hasn’t changed that much.
Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will still set the agenda at the other end of Constitution Avenue. A slightly weakened House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will again lead the opposition in the House. But there was a change in the Senate.
Long-time Democrat leader Harry Reid retired. And New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a force to be reckoned with, has assumed the mantle of Senate minority leader. It is a post many consider to be the most powerful position in Washington, bar none, because of Senate rules that allow him to essentially
“shut everything down.”
Eyes are on trade representative post
As the players in the Trump administration come more clearly into focus, our mission becomes clearer as well. One position we’ll be watching closely is U.S. trade representative.
With 50 percent of our crop exported each year and with a president who made trade deals a focus of his campaign, this job is going to be key for us.
As I write this, one of the leading contenders for this job is former House Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La. It was unfortunate Boustany lost his Senate bid in Louisiana, but it would likely be a boon for our industry if he became U.S. trade representative.
Of course—no matter who fills that position and no matter what course the president sets the country on—USA Rice will remain your representative in Washington and around the world, protecting your interests, advancing your priorities and rolling with the changes like we always do.