The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture set the organization’s primary areas of policy focus in 2024. NASDA CEO Ted McKinney says a new farm bill is at the top of their list.
“The primary piece of legislation that supports farmers and ranchers supports those who need nutrition, but it also brings along a lot of the structure for how the industry gets regulated. So, of course, we’re going to be very involved because we are co-regulators in our states. Most people think that EPA, FDA, and USDA are the regulators, and they are, but most people don’t know that a lot – I dare say most – of the regulations that are instituted by Congress and then shaped by those agencies, it’s all handed off the State Departments of Ag. So, we take a great deal of interest in shaping those properly because we say with pride that we’re the closest to that farmer, that rancher, that processor, so you bet we’re going to be involved in any number of areas.”
McKinney is still holding out hope that a farm bill gets done this year.
“I’ll start by saying I tend to be a bit more on the optimistic side. Life’s pretty miserable if you’re always negative. I think there is still a chance, but as every day goes by without getting the appropriations part done, notwithstanding I think, a strong desire to get the Farm Bill, but you just lose floor time in Congress. Our view is that we need to get this done by March and April. We know that the leadership of both the House and Senate Ag Committees wants to do that, but it’s floor time that’s becoming the pinch point now.”
One overlooked area of the farm bill that NASDA is pushing for is improving agricultural research.
“We’re putting a real push on the need for funding for research. It’s important. People say that, but gosh, the last few Farm Bills, it’s been sixth out of five in priorities, 11 out of 10, and man, are we falling behind on the international stage in terms of our support for ag research? We can’t always leave that to the corporations.”
Another aspect that needs improvement is agricultural trade.
“We’re lifting up international trade, and, for sure, the current administration is paying some attention to that. But the complete walk away from what I’ve always known as a free trade agreement and the focus on market access, which is largely bringing tariffs down, has just been vacated. There’s no attention at all being paid to that, so we’re lifting up trade policy.”