The Administration of President Donald Trump has officially begun and everyone in D.C. is buzzing. The early days suggest it will indeed be a new paradigm – one that is unconventional in style, substance and process. The cabinet is beginning to take shape as the Senate works through the process of confirming nominees – –but no cabinet is complete without the Secretary of Agriculture, currently still vacant. Look for the Senate Agriculture Committee to hold confirmation hearings in the coming weeks for nominee Sonny Perdue. This former Governor of Georgia is making the rounds with Senators to share his vision for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and answer questions. The Senate aims to have him confirmed by the end of February or early March.
The immediate focus of the Trump Administration has been Executive Orders to address issues prominent in the campaign, such as immigration, border security and trade agreements. Congress, meanwhile, is grappling with the logistics of fulfilling its goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Overlapping with all of this is the extremely contentious confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee.
The focus then turns to funding issues with the arrival of Trump’s first budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. All the while, Congress still has to complete fiscal year 2017 appropriations by either passing new appropriations bills or extending the current continuing resolution to keep funding at last year’s levels. Comprehensive tax reform is also slated to ramp up in late spring and early summer; dramatic changes to the current tax code have been proposed. These changes would significantly impact the economy, including farm and agricultural operations. The overarching goals of tax reform are to reduce corporate and individual rates in order to streamline the code and spur economic growth.
The House Republican blueprint also calls for: Reductions to capital gains rates; full and immediate expensing of capital investments; full repeal of the estate tax; and the implementation of a border adjustable tax. This tax has so far been the most controversial, with a battle brewing between major retail players that oppose it and manufacturing companies that support it. For canola, we’ll also be working to get an extension of the biodiesel tax credit.
Another big-ticket item on the 2017 agenda is a major infrastructure investment initiative. President Trump and many in Congress have stated ambitious goals for infrastructure, but questions remain, including whether there will be enough time and capacity to tackle it. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be an interesting year.
Tom Hance is a policy expert at Gordley Associates in Washington, D.C.