Potato industry in good legislative position, says lobbyist Redpath

During Potato Expo 2023 in Aurora, Colorado, lobbyist Tyson Redpath of the Russell Group, which works closely with the National Potato Council, spoke about the political climate in Washington, D.C. as the 118th Congress gets into full swing.

The big thing on the agenda for agriculture is Farm Bill 2023, which Redpath said should top one trillion dollars. There is a lot of negotiating and maneuvering to be done before a final bill can be reached. With the Democratic-controlled Senate and now-Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Redpath said the next Farm Bill will require bipartisan support, but he noted that has traditionally been the case. The past two Farm Bills (2013, 2018) have been hard fights between the divided political parties, and Redpath anticipates another one this year.

Redpath does feel the specialty crop industry, especially the potato industry, is in a good position to have its interests given strong consideration, given the key positions lawmakers from potato-producing states now hold. He noted:

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which wields a heavy hand in delegating funding.
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the top Republican on that committee as its ranking member.
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is the chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. 
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (D-Washington) is the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight of the Food & Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. McMorris-Rodgers represents Washington’s fifth district, which encompasses much of Eastern Washington. 

“The (potato industry) is probably in the best position it’s been in, from a congressional power making and influence standpoint, for at least as long as I’ve been doing this,” said Redpath, who has been a lobbyist for more than 20 years. 

Stabenow, now in her fourth term, announced Jan. 5 that she will not seek re-election in 2024. Redpath called her a “great champion” of the specialty crop industry, adding that Stabenow stepping down in two years should provide plenty of motivation for the specialty crop industry to advance its interests as much as possible with this Farm Bill and into 2024.

Redpath encouraged potato industry members to think about the disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war moving forward from a lobbying standpoint.

“We need to think about disaster reaction and what we did,” he said. “What went right, what went wrong, and what we can ask Congress to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Redpath noted the frequency of previously thought to be “once-in-a-lifetime” events in the 21st century, citing 9/11, the great recession of 2008-09, pandemic, and war in Ukraine. He said the next disaster could be right around the corner and that the agriculture industry needs to be ready.

“(Chinese) Premier Xi (Jinping) has serious intentions about retaking Taiwan,” Redpath said. “If that happens, we’re not just funding Patriot missile systems, like we did with Ukraine. We’re not just providing military supplies. We have a treaty with Taiwan.

“If all hell breaks loose in the South China Sea, we should have learned our lessons from Ukraine. What does the supply chain look like? What does trade look like?”

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