Joe Biden has been recognized as the "apparent winner" of the Nov. 3 election, formally starting the transition of power, according to the Associated Press. President Donald Trump refuses to concede the election and vowed to fight on in court after General Services Administrator Emily Murphy on Monday gave Biden permission to coordinate with federal agencies ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, wrote to Murphy on Monday, urging the agency to proceed with a collaborative transition, citing potential impacts to farmers, ranchers and consumers from transition delays. Similarly, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, wrote to Murphy urging action.
“The inability of President-elect Biden’s transition team to access briefings and other resources to be brought up to speed by career, civil service experts may directly impact food costs and consumers’ options on grocery store shelves," Peterson wrote.
“While a smooth and well-prepared transition is always vital, we are now suffering through a pandemic that is raging across America, making the need for a well-informed and planned transition even more critical,” wrote Stabenow.
She raised concerns that the delay has prevented the transition team from gaining access to USDA information they need to support farmers, strengthen the food supply chain, provide food assistance to struggling families, and nominate officials to lead the department.
Peterson cited the impacts of COVID-19 on the health of workers at meatpacking plants, potential threats to domestic pork and poultry operations from diseases like African Swine Fever and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and the shortage of domestic carbon dioxide production capacity, which may impact food processing as the demand for dry ice ramps up with the COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
Trade negotiations, too, will continue beyond the current administration, he said.
“Dedicated civil service staff . . . throughout the department are monitoring these and other crucial situations, but it will take high level leadership and the ability to muster funding to address them.” Peterson wrote. “As current senior appointees begin to depart the current administration, the handover of this information simply cannot wait until January 20, 2021.”
Download a copy of Peterson's letter here.
Download a copy of Stabenow's letter here.