Even as the dairy community heralded the completion of work last month on another package of COVID-19 relief legislation, we already knew that 2021 would begin under unprecedented conditions. That’s because our nation continues to weather the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Even with a vaccine in distribution and hopes for a return to something resembling normal conditions later in the year, difficult work remains.
But even as recently as two weeks ago, we could not have fully imagined the environment in which this year’s policymaking landscape would begin to take shape. On January 6, our democracy was fundamentally attacked: A violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol put thousands of lives in danger in a brazen mob attempt to undermine the results of a free and fair election. This mob attempted to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power that has marked our country since its founding and set us apart as an example to the rest of the world.
That effort, thankfully, was unsuccessful. But while the election of Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president was ultimately certified, culminating in their inauguration, the political climate is as sharply polarized as ever. The mistrust that permeates all corners of Congress raises significant questions about whether the kind of collaboration needed to enact durable, bipartisan legislation even exists as a new session begins.
Greatest challenge in generations
Despite what are, in some ways, Congress’s greatest challenges in generations, NMPF is prepared to roll up its sleeves in 2021, working as always to deliver much-needed results for dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own. And in some respects, NMPF is especially well-suited to this moment: Dairy has always been, within agriculture and the advocacy community, a leading driver of bipartisan consensus that’s sorely needed at this time. This year will be no exception.
First and foremost, we look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to implement the vital provisions of the recent COVID-19 package. We are grateful that Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to provide nearly $1 billion in much-needed dairy support, including a new Dairy Donation Program to help the dairy community partner with food banks to provide nutritious dairy products to food-insecure households.
Beyond this, we continue our work to enact policy solutions for dairy producers and their co-ops. The administration has already committed to working with Congress on a new COVID-19 bill; we will advocate for dairy’s needs in that process. In addition, our nation’s farm labor policy still needs fixing, both for our current farm workers and for our future workforce needs, so we will seek to build on the significant progress we made on this front in 2019.
We also will work in a bipartisan manner to advance sound policy that recognizes and further bolsters dairy’s significant and growing environmental stewardship efforts. And with more and more of the world’s customers living beyond our borders, we will eagerly seek new trade opportunities around the globe.
No small lifts, to be sure.
But if the past year has taught us anything, it is that we simply cannot predict the possibilities ahead of us. But we know our major challenges, and we are determined to advance the priorities that will continue to position the dairy sector as a sustainable supplier of healthy foods to families here at home and worldwide. As we have noted many times in the last year, dairy never stops, and neither will our ongoing determination to keep that a reality.