WASHIINGON — Associations representing the agriculture, food and restaurant industries congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election and voiced their commitment to work with the new administration and Congress to address pressing issues facing the American people, most important being conquering the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to threaten lives and economies.
The nation’s restaurant industry has been ravaged by the pandemic. The National Restaurant Association applauded Mr. Biden’s election but said the federal government could not afford to wait until inauguration day to provide urgently needed relief to consumers and businesses.
“So far, 100,000 restaurants of all types have closed across the country, and another 40% are unlikely to make it through the winter without additional relief from the federal government,” said Tom Bené, president and chief executive officer. “We ask Congress to support proposals that include immediate relief for restaurants and small businesses across the country. Without this assistance, thousands of restaurants will close before a long-term solution can even be considered.”
In a Nov. 16 podcast, executives of the American Bakers Association said one of its top priorities in the new Biden administration will be to maintain the essential workforce status of the baking industry — part of the food and agriculture critical infrastructure designation put in place by the Trump administration. The designation has helped essential industries remain operational during the pandemic.
“We’ve already started to communicate the importance to the Biden transition team,” said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the ABA. “We need to maintain that infrastructure during the transition period and through the winter. It’s important to protect those essential workers in our industry so that our members can continue to feed the country.”
Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of Consumer Brands Association, in a letter to industry leaders said with the election of Mr. Biden, a smaller Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and Senate control up for grabs until two election runoffs in Georgia in January, it was likely there will be “clear policy shifts in regulation and the federal response to COVID-19, but tremendous uncertainty on the legislative front.”
Mr. Freeman said, “While we must be vigilant and play defense where necessary, our greatest opportunity is seizing areas where we align with the new political reality.”
Mr. Freeman said he expected the Biden administration to take an active role in promoting what it believes to be in the best interest of consumers.
“We have an opportunity to use our expertise to ensure government policies truly reflect consumers’ needs,” Mr. Freeman said. “We can start by identifying consumer protection policies that consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers can support, such as advancing digital disclosure and regulating CBD, and encouraging government to be a stronger partner when it comes to enforcing pro-consumer safeguards and statutes.”
Mr. Freeman said while continuing to grapple with the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic, CBA members also intend to provide “a thoughtful assessment of what essential industries of scale need from the federal government in order to provide for the American consumer.”
He cautioned against the United States turning its back on trade agreements and global supply chains.
“We must assess our supply chains to determine the upsides and downsides of greater domestic sourcing and offer an informed perspective on reasonable changes that could advance consumer interests in the years ahead,” he said.
The National Grain and Feed Association said it anticipates a Biden administration farm and agricultural policy to give greater attention to food and nutrition programs and issues. The new administration also may be expected to emphasize how agriculture might better contribute to mitigating climate change. Organic, locally grown and small-farm issues may be given greater prominence.
On trade, the NGFA said it expects there will be a return to a more multilateral approach to addressing trade disputes as opposed to the Trump administration’s approach, which has been to negotiate on a bilateral basis.
The NGFA said the Biden administration may propose significant legislation directing funds to infrastructure including transportation, waterways and rural broadband to help stimulate economic recovery efforts.
The Biden administration may take a more regulatory/enforcement-first approach to workplace safety and environmental issues, starting with a likely attempt by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement a COVID-19 workplace safety standard, the NGFA said.
And the NGFA said it expects the Biden administration to make use of presidential executive orders, in lieu of legislation and rulemakings, to accomplish several of its policy objectives, particularly if Republicans retain majority control of the US Senate.