Why a Biden Administration May Not Buy into the Green New Deal

As President Joe Biden took office Wednesday, anticipation swirled about what a Biden Administration may mean for agriculture. From diversifying agriculture to focusing on climate initiatives, Biden’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will help shape policy priorities for agriculture.

In his first interview since being tapped for the job, Vilsack told The Storm Like Times there will be a significant shift toward conservation in agriculture. He said that shift includes more funding for existing programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Conservation Stewardship Program. He also highlighted how the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) could be utilized to help fund such conservation efforts.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns says that while the policy priorities shift from one administration to the next, the “Green New Deal” may not be in the cards for the Biden Administration.

“I don't see that happening, because that is way out there,” Johanns told AgriTalk’s Chip Flory. “That's very extreme and Biden was cautious about that. And I think [he will] continue to be cautious.”

While there are few concrete details on what the Green New Deal, a policy to help fight climate change, the ideals aim to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, while also support family farming.

Instead of such extreme legislation, Johanns thinks a Vilsack USDA may create change that could be implemented immediately. That could come in the form taking a more proactive approach in crafting the next farm bill, unlike the last time Vilsack held that role.

“For eight years, the Obama administration basically said to Congress, ‘you write the Farm Bill, we're here to serve an advisory capacity,’” said Johanns. “They really weren't pushing the major agenda when the farm bill was written while they were in office. I think that's going to be different this time.  I'm anxious to see just how different. Will Tom Vilsack engage, will they actually draft language and take it up to the hill that they went past that would make the Farm Bill more green? And I think there'll be getting a lot of pressure to do that.”

Johanns says one area where he’s concerned is the future of biofuels. From the hangover effect of small refinery waivers and other issues, he says the future of biofuels is concerning.

“I just wonder if the Biden administration is going to push biofuels like the Bush administration did when I was the Secretary of Agriculture,” says Johanns. “The bloom kind of went off the rows. And I'm not sure that Biden scores a lot of points with the green elements and his party if he moves in the direction of biofuels. So that one I put in the category of pay attention. I'm worried about it”

Johanns says agriculture needs a strong biofuels industry, but he’s not confident it will be a priority for the Biden Administration.

Related Stories:

Biofuels Groups Hopeful Biden Administration Will Restore the RFS 

A New Environment for Ag Policy 


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