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Under Bush: Ag's time in the sun?

Things to look for when George Bush becomes president (assuming he - finally - carries Florida and there are not any legal upsets to deny him the election):

- EPA Director Carol Browner, arch nemesis of agriculture and agribusiness, will most assuredly be seeking new work.

- Agriculture, which has strongly supported Bush, can expect a more attentive ear with regard to policy and regulation.

- Bob Stallman, Texas rice/cattle producer who earlier this year, in a stunning upset, deposed long-time American Farm Bureau Federation President Dean Kleckner, may parlay his association with Bush into yet another job change: Secretary of Agriculture.

- New approaches to farm legislation, trade policy, taxation, and a host of other regulatory/management approaches as Bush's more business-friendly government gets in place.

These are some of the observations of Bernadette Budde, senior vice president of the Washington-based Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), and veteran analyst of political and government trends, campaign finance, and election law.

"Most business groups rooted in the soil will be more comfortable with Bush," she said at the annual convention of the Southern Crop Production Association at Amelia Island, Fla. "Agribusiness will be treated far better by a Bush administration than a Gore administration."

The group, composed chiefly of ag chemical industry representatives, was heartened by the prospects of new leadership at the EPA. "I don't know who it will be, but I think you can expect that her (Browner's) replacement will at least be a rational person who has taken chemistry," Budde quipped.

Departure of the much-maligned Browner should also result in the replacement of many of her high level aides, Budde noted, and "you need to be prepared to offer suggestions for filling these posts. In fact, you should take a look at people in your own industry who might be willing to serve. Bush will not shy away from those in industry."

Since most SCPA members are located in the southern bloc of states that were solidly in Bush's corner, she urged the industry execs to "claim your share of credit for this victory. This president is one of your constituents, someone you've dealt with, and your geography is going to be greatly rewarded. This is going to be your time in the sun, so make the most of it."

Under a "responsive, bipartisan Congress," Budde said, agriculture can expect resolution of thorny trade issues, sanctions, etc. And though "it will require more work, I think you can expect to see a more acceptable resolution of the issues related to biotechnology under Bush than under Gore."

Agriculture should find the Senate, which "has been fairly dysfunctional," easier to work with as a result of the election of "some sensitive Democrats that agribusiness can work with."

In the House, she said, "at least 10 percent of the quite small freshman class will come directly out of agriculture - they're farmers, or have agricultural knowledge - and you should be prepared to develop relationships with these people and use them to your advantage. With the president a Republican, the House majority leader a Republican from Texas, and the Agriculture Committee chairman a Texan, how much better wired can you be?"

Bob Stallman, the third-generation Texas farmer Budde mentioned as a possibility for Secretary of Agriculture, was at the SCPA convention. He cheerfully chuckled at the speculation, but his service in Bush-appointed positions in Texas, as well as on the national Commission on 21st Century Agriculture, a panel that has conducted extensive hearings on future farm policy alternatives - combined with the broad exposure to farm issues he's received during this year as AFBF president and his years of on-the-farm experience - could give him a leg up on the job.

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