2020 Policy Development Backgrounders

Congressional Responses to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt an enormous blow to farmers across the country. Congress has taken several actions in response to the pandemic including stimulus packages to make up for economic losses.

Tennessee’s Budget

State revenues were significantly impacted and the primary focus during the legislative session of the General Assembly and the governor’s administration was to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and time-sensitive and budget related items.

County Government Budgets

The General Assembly and Governor Bill Lee agreed to offer local governments grants in response to local government needs and impact of COVID-19 through the state’s budget. The funds may be used to offset loss or supplement local revenue.

Tennessee Criminal Justice Reform

Despite incarcerating more people and spending $1 billion annually on corrections in the state budget, TN has the 4th highest violent crime rate in the nation and a high recidivism rate, with nearly half of individuals rearrested within 3 years of release from custody.

Corn Ethanol Current and Future Status

Following passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard, corn use for ethanol has increased significantly. The market for fuel is ever changing and is affected by many factors including foreign oil, domestic oil production and consumer demand.


On June 3, 2020, after farmers already planted most of their cotton and soybean acres, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the registrations of three dicamba herbicides — Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia, and Corteva’s FeXapan.

Investigations into Meat Packers

The four largest beef processors handle 75% of the U.S. market based on volume and revenue. The concern has initiated investigations into the manipulation of cattle pricing by the processing/packing industry from USDA, Department of Justice and attorney generals.

Negotiated Cattle Trade

In recent months, there have been many conversations about how cattle are and should be marketed. Some discussions have focused on the optimal level of cattle transactions through certain marketing channels in order to facilitate greater price discovery.

Processor Inspection and Capacity

Retail meat sales present a unique and increasingly popular niche which livestock producers are filling. As the trend grows more popular and the wait list at custom slaughterhouses grows longer, more processing capacity may be necessary.

Mandatory County of Origin Labeling

Using the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting responses as an opportunity, there has been an increased push, especially on social media, to encourage Congress to enact Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork again.

Riparian Water Rights and Shelby County Well Drilling Rules

Riparian water is the water connected to property by going through the property, adjacent rivers and streams, connected wetlands, or groundwater underneath the property. Shelby County’s well drilling rules effectively remove riparian water rights from landowners.

WOTUS Update

On June 23, 2020, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) went into effect to replace the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. NWPR was updated based on farmers’ comments to provide clarity, predictability, and consistency under the Clean Water Act.