Tough row to hoe for a better 2016

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 Drovers CattleNetwork issue.

It took Congress 352 days into the year to define tax laws for 2015. Welcome to expertly run America.

At least one desperately needed meat and livestock industry amendment was in the omnibus bill. The decade-long nightmare of mandatory country-of-origin labeling is over — a long, sorry path, benefitting no one.

Terrorists struck in Paris and San Bernardino. The question of who controls the globe is more like a period before a world war than after one.

A timeworn political cliché: "What we need is leadership."

I lived through the poor leadership of the Carter years. Strong leadership — Reagan here and Thatcher in Great Britain — brought down the Soviet "evil empire."

But the Soviets wanted to live. Now we have a fanatic cult of kamikazes using 21st-century technology.

The No. 1 priority has shifted from the economy and jobs to national security.

Looking ahead

With that as our background, what's likely in 2016?

Bits of tax reform were in the omnibus bill, shifting temporary tax provisions to permanent ones. House Speaker Paul Ryan has spent years crafting tax reform. We may see small efforts even while Obama yet reigns. Big names like Pfizer fleeing overseas might force corporate tax-rate reduction.

More than in 2014 and early 2015, beef demand might depend on the health of the U.S. and global economy. Obama might not know there is a war, but American consumers know and that puts a more cautious spin on a flat economy. The good news is, we produce food and everyone eats (nearly). That puts a certain floor under demand, but the kind of strength we saw previously needs better economic news and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Before ISIS showed such strength, just the prospect of the Obama nightmare ending would have made good psychology. Now, it's going to take more.

The omnibus nibbled at Obamacare, postponing some taxes due in 2016. Will the collapse of more state exchanges and the threats by some big insurers to pull out force more change? More people of both parties are becoming aware of the cost and failure of Obamacare affecting 20 percent of the economy. But repeal or fundamental overhaul is a year off.

The meat-production chain can expect more pressure from the EPA, Department of the Interior and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). While Congress is belatedly paying attention to the millstones EPA has chained to the necks of key industries, we need more oversight and repeal. Some prohibitions on EPA weren't in the omnibus. The NLRB is dedicated to helping the Service Employees International Union unionize fast food and Wal-Mart. All agencies will be pushing to squeeze all the harassment and regulation possible out of Obama's last year.

You matter!

Pray for the Supreme Court. We can't afford any justices falling ill while Obama holds the nomination power.

Pray also that a Republican ticket emerges that combines real leadership with business experience. We need a demonstrated willingness to buck the establishment of both parties — those who have failed us — to get the ship righted and rerouted.

This is 2016's question. Do you still believe in the rightness, the constitutional capability of America? If so, it is your turn. You have the power of contributing money, time and votes to candidates at all levels.

The Iowa caucuses are weeks away. Four states have February primaries and by March's end, roughly 30 states will have had primaries.

Everything I cautioned about Obama eight years ago has come to haunt this country, plus boatloads more. Take your vote and your selection seriously. It is not just our country but the world that is at stake. This year, 2016, is our time to climb out of our bunkers and charge ahead.

Dittmer, a veteran in agricultural policy, writes for the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation. His blog is called "Free Market Carnivore."