A new administration and Congress topped Jody Campiche's address at the recent virtual Red River Crops Conference, a joint meeting between Texas Rolling Plains and Southwest Oklahoma producers.
Campiche, National Cotton Council director of economics and policy analysis, discussed nominees and their relation to the cotton industry.
"On the political front, we have a split Senate with 50% Republican and 50% Democrat with the results of the outcome of the two runoff elections in Georgia," Campiche said. "Because of the incoming Democratic administration, Vice President Harris will be the president of the Senate and therefore the tie-breaking vote. So, this effectively gives the Democrats the majority in the Senate."
Across the Cotton Belt, eight new senators have been elected. "It is possible that one of these could be put on the Senate ag committee. If this happens, it will be the first time in several Congresses that we have had a democratic member in the Senate on that side of the ag committee."
The House of Representatives is much more closely divided, she said. "Republicans picked up several seats so they have narrowed the Democratic majority—currently, 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans. We still have one seat or one race that is uncalled in New York."
Soon there will be four vacancies in the House, three of which are in Cotton Belt states Louisiana and New Mexico. The vacancies are as follows:
- Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA)- vacating the seat to serve as a senior aide in the Biden administration
- Incoming Rep. Luke Letlow (R-LA)- passed away on Dec. 29, 2020
- Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)- vacating the seat to serve as the Secretary of the Interior in the Biden administration
- Rep. Marcia Fudge (D)- vacating the seat to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Biden administration
There are 26 new House members from cotton growing states, nine from the Southwest (two in Kansas, one in Oklahoma and seven in Texas). "In Texas, two of the largest cotton-growing districts in the country, the 11th and 13th are both represented by freshman as well."
Due to the change in majority in the Senate, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will again become the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) will be the committee's ranking member.
Other Senate committees of importance and their leadership include:
- Appropriations Committee: no changes other than a reversal of roles with Richard Shelby (R-AL) becoming ranking member and Pat Leahy (D-VT) the chairman
- Budget Committee: a new top Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham
- Environment & Public Works Committee (deals with infrastructure as well as environmental issues): Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) will be the top Republican
- Finance Committee (jurisdiction over trade and tax issues): Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) will be top Republican
The House side welcomes new leadership to both sides of the committee: Chairman David Scott (D-GA) and ranking member Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA).
"Chairman Scott has been a strong advocate and has been very supportive of our industry and cotton issues even though his district is more urban/suburban and doesn’t have an agriculture presence," Campiche said. "He recognizes the importance of the industry to the state. We are optimistic about working with him and his team."
On the minority side, Ranking Member Thompson is replacing Mike Conaway (R-TX). Although he is not from a cotton-producing state, Campiche said he's been open about learning about the cotton industry and its issues. "We had the opportunity to bring him to Memphis in the fall of 2019 to see cotton harvest, a cotton gin, warehouse and the classing office. So, he has a good foundation of our issues and what is important."
Of importance to cotton on the House committees, include:
- Appropriations Committee: New Chairwoman Rosa Delaurio (D-CT)
- Budget Committee: New Ranking Member Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO)
- Natural Resources Committee: Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
- Ways & Means Committee (trade and tax policy): No changes
Congressman Smith has most of the cotton in Missouri within his district, Campiche said. "He is a strong friend of the industry," adding that Westerman is as well.
The new administration has nominated Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture.
"We expect him to have a fairly easy confirmation process through the Senate," Campiche said. "Toward the end of his tenure, Sec. Vilsack and his team came up with the idea or solution of trying to provide the cotton ginning cost share program as a way to provide relief until cotton was added back to the farm bill.
"So, we give them a lot of credit for being creative in new thinking and willing to reach out and work with the industry."
At the U.S. trade representative's office, Katherine Tai is the nominee. Previously, Tai served as a senior trade lawyer on the House Ways and Means Committee. "She is someone who is well respected by members on both sides of the aisle and was involved in the renegotiation of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) through the USMCA (United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement). And again, someone who is getting a lot of praise from members in Congress. We expect her to have a fairly easy confirmation."
The EPA administrator nominee is Michael Regan (D-NC). While the cotton industry has not worked with him much, Campiche said he's worked with the pork industry. "They have very positive things to say about him and the working relationship they had. And he certainly has been doing some outreach to the ag community since he was put forward in this position. So, we look forward to trying to develop a good relationship there."
The director nominee for the Office of Management and Budget is Neera Tanden, CEO of Center for American Progress think tank. She served in the Clinton administration and was a key player in Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign.
The Senior Staff, which does not require confirmation by the Senate, also has been named. They are as follows:
- Chief of Staff Ron Klain- served as President Biden's first Chief of Staff when he was vice president (2009-2011)
- National Economic Council Director Brian Deese- played a key role in engineering the rescue of the U.S. auto industry and in negotiating Paris Climate Agreement during the Obama Administration. The NEC is where the special advisor to the president for agriculture and trade serves. That individual has not yet been named.
- Domestic Policy Council Director Amb. Susan Rice- served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as National Security Adviser during the Obama administration.
- Office of Public Engagement Senior Adviser and Director Cedric Richmond- has represented Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District since 2011.
- National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy- the first-ever National Climate Advisor to head the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
"Cedric Richmond is going to be the director of public engagement which is the gateway for industries, businesses and trade associations like ours. This is the office where we will be engaging most directly with the White House. And, he has been doing a lot of outreach to the business community and is someone who was always viewed as trying to work in a bipartisan way in Congress. So, I think all of that bodes well for working with this new team at the White House."