Advancing high octane, low carbon biofuels, expanding trade markets and incentivizing soil health practices are just three legislative priorities of the Illinois Farm Bureau during the 117th Congress. IFB also supports investing in infrastructure and defending essential provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“We need your support, we need your engagement, in all of these issues going forward,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr., during his opening remarks Tuesday at the virtual IFB Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference.
And with the Biden administration in office now for almost a month, what do the first 30 days indicate about policy in the coming four years?
“Obviously, there’s been a slew of executive orders,” said Adam Nielsen, IFB director of national legislation and policy development. “It’s the second most only to (President) Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There have been 30 executive orders so far. Most of them have related to COVID, immigration or the Census. They’re basically statements of administrative intent.”
Moving forward, President Joe Biden will focus on getting cabinet appointees through the Senate and passing another COVID relief package.
Currently, only six out of 23 key Biden cabinet-level appointments have been confirmed.
Both USDA Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator nominee, Michael Regan, had their hearings and are now awaiting confirmation by the full Senate. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) nominee Katherine Tai, who previously worked for USTR and the House Ways and Means Committee, is still awaiting her nomination hearing.
Meanwhile, the Illinois congressional delegation gained two new members and saw some changes in leadership roles held.
Representatives Mary Miller, R-Oakland, and Marie Newman, D-La Grange, are both new to Congress.
The House Agriculture Committee now has four Illinois representatives on it, including Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline; Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; Mary Miller, R-Oakland; and Bobby Rush, D-Chicago.
Rep. Bustos also will chair the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, which oversees the Commodity Credit Corporation and crop insurance programs, among other areas.
On the Senate side, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, will play a far more significant role as he is now Assistant Majority Leader (Whip) of the Senate. He also was selected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, which provides oversight of the Department of Justice. He also remains on the Senate Agriculture and Senate Appropriations committees.
And while in-person meetings with Illinois’ delegation have not been possible the past year, IFB has stayed connected with key elected officials and their staff virtually.
“Congress has really adapted very well to the virtual world,” said Nielsen. “The meetings have been very productive since last year. During the most intense periods of COVID, we’ve (IFB) been doing meetings with our delegation and we’ve been able to get our message across very well in those meetings. Of course, we continue to have contact all the time on a daily basis with congressional staff and members. Governmental relations is still taking place it’s just having big groups come out to Washington D.C. is the issue right now.”
Video: Nielsen outlines the organization's national legislative priorities for the year during the first session of the virtual Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference.