While voters returned President Barack Obama to the White House for four more years and kept Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in power at the House of Representatives, don’t look for status quo out of Washington, D.C., in months ahead.
“I think what this will do is unplug the stopper at the (Office of Management and Budget) and we see (food safety regulations) come out fairly quickly,” said David Acheson, former Food and Drug Administration associate commissioner for food protection and partner at Leavitt Partners, Washington, D.C. While food safety regulations have been reportedly been ready for release for about a year, political sensitivity to Republican charges that the Obama administration is overly regulatory has kept them on ice.
“All the pointers are that this stuff will flow out, and 2013 will be like a year that we have never seen before,” he said Nov. 7.
Acheson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the FDA issues new proposed food safety regulations by late November or early December. What is uncertain is whether the new regulations — preventive controls, the produce safety regulations, foreign supplier rules — will be issued as a package or released one at a time.
After the regulations are released, Acheson said a 120-day comment period is likely. If Republican Mitt Romney had been elected as president, Acheson said he believes the regulations would have changed significantly. But with the Obama reelected, Acheson predicts proposed regulations won’t be much altered.
Acheson speculated final rules related to the Food Safety Modernization Act could be issued sometime in 2013. Enforcement could begin perhaps one to two years later, depending on the size of regulated businesses, Acheson said.
Obama reelection at least gives the agricultural community an idea of what to expect in terms of employer enforcement of immigration law, said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the McLean, Va.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers.
If there is an upside to the results of the election, Gasperini said Obama is likely to have more incentive to do something about immigration reform, considering the Latino vote strongly supported him.
“My biggest fear is that we have four more years of the same angry fight in Washington of ‘You say this is good, I must say this is bad,’” he said.
Republican leaders may also want to reconsider their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, Gasperini said.
“If they want to become a majority party again, they are going to have to so something because the demographics aren’t changing,” he said.
Uncertainty about the farm bill and tax issues expected to be considered during the lame duck session were not immediately resolved with the election, industry lobbyists said.
One lobbyist said a divided Congress will be difficult but not impossible to deal with.
“I think the specialty crops industry has learned over the decades to learn to work with both parties,” said Robert Schramm, industry lobbyist and partner with Schramm & Williams in Washington, D.C. “We will continue to work with both parties and succeed.”