Syngenta's Mary Kay Thatcher Less Than Optimistic About Congress's Ability to Work TogetherMon, 12 Nov 2018 11:02:46 CST
There a few people in the business with more experience than Mary Kay Thatcher, when it comes to agricultural policy. Before moving to work with Syngenta, Thatcher, had a long stint with the American Farm Bureau where she covered just about every policy issue that related back to agriculture. In her current role, she says this remains the same although perhaps a bit more technical on certain matters. Like many of her peers, much of Thatcher’s time these days has been spent working with leaders on Capitol Hill to ensure the next Farm Bill is written with producers’ best interests in mind. During the recent 2018 National Association of Farm Broadcasters Convention in Kansas City, she spoke with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays about her work recently and her views of the post-election political landscape. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
Obviously, the Midterms resulted with bit of change in power with the Democrats taking back the House Majority and Republicans securing a majority in the Senate. As Farm Bill negotiations remain unresolved, some may cringe at the thought of seeing this balance of power change in the middle of this process to pass this very important legislation to farmers. But, Thatcher is not as concerned as others- explaining that this situation isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.
“It won’t be a very optimistic thing to say, but I’m not sure there’s going to be a whole lot of change,” she said. “We’ve been in a little bit of difficulty in getting much of anything accomplished over the last couple of years. I suspect the House slipping Democrat isn’t going to make any change to that.”
At the end of the day, Thatcher says to get anything done on the Farm Bill or anything else, there will need to be 60 votes in the affirmative in the Senate. She points out that neither side of the aisle has that many votes to command. From where she stands, Thatcher says this will not be a highly productive Congress by any means for the next couple years.
However, during the Lame Duck session, Thatcher says the opportunity to pass a Farm Bill is possible. But, the potential for that to happen hinges on whether or not House Ag Chairman Michael Conaway and Speaker Paul Ryan will budge on what Thatcher calls their “philosophical issue of work requirements.”
“They may be right about their opinion, but they don’t have a bill that can pass the Senate and so, I think if they want a Farm Bill…,” she remarked, “Unless we move on the SNAP requirements, it is not going to happen.”
In the meantime, when she is not focused on debate over the Farm Bill, Thatcher has also been working with industry stakeholders on the important issue of consumer messaging regarding biotechnology and its place in modern agricultural production. According to her, it is critical the industry take a lead in telling this segment’s story to the consumer and helping the public understand what this technology is and how it helps. She adds that the Administration’s agenda for deregulation has certainly helped create a climate that is more receptive to what the industry has to say.
“We need to move forward on that and move in a very quick way, because if we don’t, the public is going to say gene-editing is just GMOs and it’s gong to be regulated that way and we’re going to lose the public perception battle,” she said. “So, we’re working diligently to try to find ways to help the public understand that it really is quite different then GMOs and it is really a safe way to move ahead with things.”
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