Election 2020: What will 2021 & beyond mean for irrigation policy?

Legislative update | Winter 2021
BY JOHN FARNER

In a year that brought us COVID-19 and “murder hornets,” a long, drawn-out presidential election in 2020 should not have been a surprise to anyone. However, after a long transition period and many court challenges from President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. 

During the election, there were also a few key races that switched parties throughout Congress, including Arizona gaining a Democrat senator and Minnesota and Alabama gaining a Republican congressman and senator, respectively. As of the time this article was written, the GOP maintained control of the U.S. Senate, while gaining a few seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

What does this all mean for irrigation policy?

First, not much, immediately. The first few months in office, the Biden team will be focusing on building out the administration and cabinet. With coronavirus continuing to be the thousand-pound gorilla, and the largest shift in policy from the old administration to the new administration, this will likely be the first large focus of both Congress and President Biden. 

Where irrigation really falls into a potential shift in policy is in the environmental regulatory world. If Congress remains divided, do not expect any monumental shifts in policies regarding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, conservation funding, environmental regulatory reform, etc. However, with the United States now reentering the Paris Climate Accord, Secretary John Kerry being named a special envoy to climate change, and an ideological shift coming to both the EPA and the Department of Agriculture, agricultural water management and sustainability will be more important now than ever before. The good news is that the Irrigation Association is well positioned to be the authority on policies affecting agricultural water use both in the new Congress and the new administration. 

As we enter a new year and a new focus in Washington, the challenges facing our industry and agriculture continue to grow. The long-lasting effects of COVID-19 have yet to be realized; however, no one can argue that the relief packages provided to farmers and ranchers made a positive impact and afforded the opportunity for U.S. producers to not only remain viable but also provided them cash to continue to invest in their operations. Ultimately, the irrigation industry must stay involved and position itself as a leader in the precision agriculture and sustainability movements.


As we enter a new year and a new focus in Washington, the challenges facing our industry and agriculture continue to grow.


While the change in administration may cause alarm for some, these shifts in focus and policy can also have potential to drive business in all aspects of the irrigation industry. The IA is the voice for irrigation and irrigation professionals. All of us are literally at the front lines of managing this precious natural resource. Whether you are a farmer, dealer, consultant, manufacturer or someone who cares about the value of agriculture, we all work to ensure our nation’s farmers have the water they need to produce a safe and reliable food supply (something we all valued during the pandemic). The Biden administration will surely have a new focus on environmental regulations; however, the IA stands ready to use this as an opportunity to promote our expertise and our technology as solutions to the challenges facing water and agriculture today.

Here is to a safe and successful 2021 for all of us. 

John Farner is the industry development director for the Irrigation Association and federal affairs director for the National Ground Water Association.
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