President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward transitioning to his administration and weighing cabinet options. It has been reported by multiple outlets that former US Senator Heidi Heitkamp is the frontrunner for Secretary of Agriculture. With election defeat of Midwest farm advocates in the previous two elections, the appointment would be the best possible outcome for our farmers.
The defeat of House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson was a blow to the upper Midwest farmer. The next Chair will likely shift the focus to the southern producers. Instead of soybeans and corn, it will be peanuts and cotton. Though Peterson’s replacement, Michelle Fischbach, wants on the ag committee – something Heitkamp’s replace Kevin Cramer has refused – she will have very little clout. This will increase our attention to Senator John Hoeven and his ability to navigate a farm bill in the Republican Senate.
A pivot to the south from Congress will be a continuation of what current Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has done in the executive branch. Recall the MFP was a federal payment to farmers to offset the harm brought by Trump’s trade war with China. American taxpayers footed the bill. According to last year’s reports, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s home state of Georgia topped the list for average per-acre payments. Midwest farmers still haven’t gotten an explanation as to why the payment distribution favored southern states. This is just one example of why a Midwest advocate needs to get the position of Ag Secretary.
This has to be said. Following recent election outcomes, there is a bit of irony that Midwest farmers may be reliant on a moderate Democrat like Heitkamp to pick up the pieces of the fragile farm economy left behind by the outgoing administration. Trade, waivers, weather, and covid have taken a toll. There is a lot of work to be done. That will be more evident than ever when the next Congress gets to work. The best possible outcome is for Heidi Heitkamp to be the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.