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Senators seek help for farmers post-pandemic world
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Imagining a post-pandemic world of business, agriculture and health care

File photo. Credit: Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — What could possibly be the upside to a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million people around the world? Perhaps a time to imagine a better place after coronavirus has passed and the world sets out on a post-pandemic beginning.

Owner of Gibson’s Green Acres and Bennet Farms Legacy in Ogden, Ron Gibson says now may be the time to expand support for agriculture in Utah.

“When we’re reliant for our food to come from all across the country or, even worse, to come from all over the world, to feed us, that’s a problem,” Gibson said. ““The number one thing that we need to do is we have got to find ways as a state to support our local agricultural industry.”

Government regulations

US Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, believes now is the time to help  Americans get back on their feet by lifting the burden of excessive regulations on businesses.

“When I first started following this problem, I was a law student, and someone pointed out to me then that it was costing the American economy an estimated $300 or $400 billion a year to comply with federal regulations. The estimates now are about $2 trillion a year . . . That’s starting to approach the amount of money we spend through our income tax system. And it’s probably worse with COVID[-19] because there are more regulations in place now,” Lee said.

Lee pointed out that it’s not the big corporations that suffer under the weight of overregulation that government imposes.

Will Mike Lee's COVID-19 diagnosis interfere with SCOTUS confirmation process? post-pandemic world

(Sen. Mike Lee, at the Capitol in Washington, September 21, 2020. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

“The costs of regulatory compliance are not borne exclusively by big, corporate fat cats or billionaires. They are, instead, borne by poor and middle class Americans who pay through higher prices on goods, higher prices on services, diminished wages, unemployment and underemployment,” Lee said.

Price of beef

Lee shares Ogden farmer Ron Gibson’s view that burdensome restrictions are hurting the US food industry.

“We have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic a problem with the fact that within the meat-packing industry, you’ve seen a lot of consolidation. You see an enormous amount of market force being wielded by just a few, very small entities, and those entities have the power to control the price of beef in such a way that really produces odd results,” Lee said.

“What does that have to do with regulation? Well, it has everything to do with regulation. There are very few people, very few businesses that can afford to get into that industry. The restrictions on entry are very high because of the excessive regulations. One has to wonder whether this isn’t something that a state or a municipality or, even in some circumstances, a trade group could perform on its own,” he said.

Delays in US health care

Lee also sees the bureaucrat’s heavy hand of rules and regulations in slowing the health care of Americans while other advanced nations enjoy the benefits of a new treatment or medicine.

“I’ve wondered at times, ‘Who benefits from the incessant delays for regulatory approval of certain treatments?’ . . . If there’s a treatment that’s available in one of our peer nations, let’s say the UK or in Japan or in Canada that’s been approved by one of their regulatory agencies, Americans ought to have the ability to procure that treatment without interference by our regulatory system. If it’s good enough for use in the UK or in Canada or Japan, for example, people ought to have that decision to make on their own, rather than having made for them by a bureaucrat in Washington,” Lee said.

Disruption as a force for efficiency

Lee isn’t the only lawmaker who thinks now may be the time to reimagine a better future after the pandemic has died off. 

Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson of Kaysville says during the past few months, the state has made it easier for people to do things like take classes online or make hand sanitizer.

brad wilson post-pandemic world

FILE – In this Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, Republican Rep. Brad Wilson, of Kaysville, looks on during the House Majority Caucus at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

“One thing that I believe firmly is that the disruption that this pandemic has caused in society has the ability for us to see the world in a different way. We’re doing things right now, whether it’s in our educations areas or in business that I think we would have taken 10 or 15 years to get to the place we’re at. I suspect we’re going to see a lot more of that in government and finding ways for government to be a lot more efficient,” Wilson said.

Disrupting regulations

Wilson added that Utah lawmakers are also exploring the idea, which the state has used successfully in the past, of allowing companies to conduct business with or without certain rules for a short period of time. 

“It’s probably time we do something like that again. It’s really sort of a beta test of how you can maybe change regulation in an industry and try to find out whether you get the outcomes you want or unintended outcomes,” Wilson said.

He said the needed changes will be created by regular folks, not imposed from government regulators in D.C.

“A lot of the changes I’ve seen made in regulation over the last decade that I’ve served in the Legislature have come from citizens, who see things that need to change. It’s not just regulation on business, too. Iit’s government regulating citizens and the way we live our lives,” Wilson said.

Post-pandemic world

Wilson foresees the post-pandemic world shedding the old ways before COVID-19 ground the world to a halt.

“It’s a little hard to judge in the middle of it kinda of where that’s going to completely land, but there’s never, in a pandemic or outside of a pandemic, a shortage of ideas of how to change the rules. I think there’s a lot of rules and regulations that we will find probably don’t suit our needs in a post-pandemic world,” Wilson said.