Seed World

A New Administration Means New Focuses

As the PLDC quickly approaches, ASTA highlights new focuses for lobbying efforts.

There’s a new sheriff in town that’s causing a quite a stir in the industry when it comes to policy priorities. Who is it, you may ask? 

Well, it’s the entire Biden Administration.

With a new administration comes new challenges, in particular to focus on policies and advocacy. The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is no different. With a change in administration came a new learning curve, as well as a new focus.

Seed World Talked with Janae Brady, senior director of government affairs, and Pat Miller, director of state government affairs, to see what ASTA’s new focuses are for the upcoming Policy and Leadership Development Conference (PLDC) in Washington D.C.

A New President, a New Focus

Brady noted that with a new administration in the White House comes a bit of a “feeling out” period. 

“With the new administration and new Congress, a lot of our focus has been figuring out who is doing what and where,” Brady says. “With the cabinet being established and new Congressional members coming in positions are still being finalized.” 

Because of that, Brady says the No. 1 priority now has been learning exactly what the federal priorities are going to be. 

Janae Brady

“We had a little bit of an insight as to what that would look like with the presidential campaign and everything leading up to the new administration and new Congress,” she says. “But really, things are still ramping up and executive orders and overarching policies are just now getting released and laid out.” 

While everything’s still being mapped out, Brady does note two important issues that’s been raised to the top of mind at ASTA: climate change and sustainability. 

“Climate change and sustainability and where the seed industry fits into that discussion is important on our docket,” she says. “We’re engaged in a handful of Coalitions and industry efforts, both at the domestic and international level, because there’s going to be a lot of focus at the White House and in Congress, as well as some international policies being developed around the world.”

However, Brady notes that while the new administration has greased the wheels of the climate change and sustainability discussion, the talks were already gaining momentum prior to the shift. 

“Over the last couple of years in particular, the agriculture industry has especially been trying to figure out what our role needs to be,” Brady says. “And we’ve been making moves toward establishing that position. But certainly, that’s been an elevated conversation with the new administration.” 

Uniquely, Brady mentions one edge industry lobbyists have currently is the administration — particularly President Biden and Secretary Vilsack — are not “new” to their positions. 

“Both were here under President Obama,” she says. “That’s helpful, because we’re not dealing with brand new actors. We know a little bit of the policy positions that folks are coming in with.”

Although, even with that being said, it’s important to continue staying on your toes.

“Even though some of the faces are the same, the climate is different now than it was four years ago, eight years ago or more,” Brady says. “Some of the issues have changed, and the priorities have changed. Obviously, things like COVID and the pandemic are some of those really drastic issues we’ve dealt with nationally and globally.”

States Hone in on Seed Treatment

In terms of state policies, Miller notes that luckily, the federal administration doesn’t directly influence state governments and their policies.

“It’s a new presidential administration,” he says. “It’s kind of like a lagging indicator in the States. There’s a little bit of influence there, and while some state representatives did shift, there’s not a major immediate change. What I’ve seen is in a couple of years, you’ll see that influence coming down, but at this time, it’s too soon.”

Pat Miller

But that doesn’t mean that state priorities aren’t top-of-mind, too. Miller notes that he’s been tracking important bills as they move through state governments. 

“I usually track about 100 to 120 bills in a year, and in all the states this year, I have over 80 bills that are related to treated seed,” Miller says, noting that one of the biggest concerns for states in terms of seed is treated seed or pesticides. 

Miller notes that if you keep an eye on every state, there’s almost 600 bills that have been filed that deal with pesticides.

“Some are rising to the top, some are following them to the side, and it’s that time in the session where we get to pick our winners,” he says. 

In fact, there’s one particular bill that caught Miller’s eye — a bill introduced in New York that would ban the use of treated seed. 

“We’re working to help policymakers understand just how integral seed treatments are as part of farmers’ integrated pest management strategies,” he says. “Innovations in seed treatments provide an extremely targeted and effective approach for pesticide applications and pest control, that’s good news for farmers and for the environment.”

Miller notes that it’s just a completely different world in state regulations.

“It’s been a challenging year,” he says. “The other part of all the legislative activity this year in the States is that it’s all been different. There’s been a lot of things going on, but there’s also a little bit of everything. You’ve got this big uptick in pesticide legislation, and then everything else is just so varied.”

Even with the challenges during this unique year, Miller says this is something the seed industry is going to get through. 

What to Know for the PLDC

In terms of what to keep in mind when attending the PLDC in Washington D.C. this summer, there are a few things ASTA would like to continue to bring to the attention of policymakers. 

“ASTA is always going to be talking about the importance of ag research, innovation and of the policies that surround things like gene editing, regulations at the USDA, EPA and FDA,” Brady says. “Across the board, those are always going to be top priorities and things that we’re watching closely.”

More broadly, Brady says another focus is gearing up for the 2023 Farm Bill discussion. 

“We want to start ramping up for the 2023 Farm Bill discussion sooner rather than later,” Brady says. “I expect that something we’re going to want to get in the door pretty quickly, and June works for our timing. We’ll start laying out some of those priorities and issues, including conservation, research, and the role of the seed industry in those programs. 

Brady says hitting this idea on conservation programs is especially important as ASTA talks about the role of sustainability, the importance of investment and the research title of the Farm Bill with funding through NIFA and other areas of ag research. 

“There’s 12 titles in the Farm Bill, and I’m sure we have a priority in every single title,” she says.

Finally, trade continues to be an issue ASTA is working on. 

“Some of the tariffs are still in place that our members have been dealing with over the last few years,” she says. “Depending on which member of Congress we are speaking to, we will have a number or priorities to highlight.”

As for state issues, most state legislation is out of session. 

“My focus and the goal I have for the PLDC is to encourage engagement, encourage communication discussions, and to motivate people to be more involved with their associations,” Miller says, noting that getting involved with state associations is just as important with getting involved at ASTA. 

As for timing, Miller says when working on state legislations, fall is a good time to work in the States. 

“Fall and late summer are a good time to try and get ahead of things,” he says. “We’ll also present on what happened in the 2021 state legislative sessions, and what lessons are learned and how to prepare for 2022.”

Editor’s Note: This piece was published in early May, and some legislative pieces might have changed prior to the PLDC mid-June.