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Some political things we do know

We may have had huge elections last week, but we still have so much up in the air, including who will be the president of the U.S. in January, and which party will control the Senate.

It would be easy to say we don’t know much in the political world, but from a fresh produce perspective, we know many things.

Some of those were expressed during a webinar November 10 from the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458.

For example, regardless of which party wins the Georgia special elections for its two Senate seats in early January and therefore has the majority, we will have new leadership in three of the four agriculture committees.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, will return in 2021 either as chairwoman or ranking Democrat for the Senate Ag committee, but Pat Roberts, R-KS, is retiring. Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, is expected to step up to the leadership position.

In the House, the Democrats kept their majority, but lost seats and their ag committee chairman, Collin Peterson, who lost re-election. Rep. David Scott, D-GA, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-CA, are the leaders for the top position.

Rep. Michael Conaway, R-TX, is retiring and will leave as ranking member, and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, is expected to take the position.

Immigration
John Hollay, Senior Director, Government Relations for United Fresh is optimistic that immigration reform can happen in the next few years.

“I think DACA will happen day 1 with Biden,” he said, referring to the reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival plan for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which President Trump suspended.

He said Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, and Thom Tillis, R-NC, won re-election, and both have been willing to work on immigration issues, which could lead to bipartisan reform for the current and future workforce.

Hollay said immigration reform is something United Fresh has worked on for decades, but I’ll remain skeptical any bipartisan legislation will happen as long as there’s a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

That aspect has been unpopular with voters for many years, and most Republican Senators won’t risk angering their constituents by backing a proposal with that in it.

Food box program
Mollie Van Lieu, Senior Director, Nutrition Policy for United Fresh said the program has been generally good for hunger relief and for the produce industry, but it’s very much tied to the Trump administration, and would have to rebrand if Joe Biden becomes president.

She also said she’s hearing rounds three and four have not been as successful as rounds one and two, which had produce-only food boxes.

Polarization
Randy Russell of The Russell Group said it’s clear that urban and suburban areas are becoming more likely to vote Democratic and rural areas are voting more Republican.

“The divide has gotten larger,” he said, and that could cause trouble for agriculture interests from increasingly uninterested city folk.

Additionally, he pointed out the problems of political polling, saying that in the 2016, pollsters were shown to have significantly misjudged President Trump’s appeal.

And for the 2020 election, “this time, they did a far worse job.”

Even formerly well respected pollsters such as Real Clear politics and the Cook Political report overestimated Democrats by as much as double digits.

“We are an evenly divided country,” Russell said.

We may not know who will be president in two months, but we do know how divided we are.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services