The House and Senate Agriculture Committees will have new leadership in January following midterm elections Tuesday that promise to dramatically change the power dynamic in Washington.
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) lost her bid for reelection to John Boozman in a disheartening defeat to many in agriculture.
While House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) easily won reelection, his party did not fare as well, losing at least 60 seats and control of the House of Representatives.
In fact, the Democratic side of the House Agriculture Committee will see dramatic turn-over with at least 15 of 28 Members not returning.
Among those who lost Tuesday was longtime wheat friend Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), who won the industry’s Wheat Leader of the Year Award in 2006. House Transportation Committee James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who oversaw transportation policies of importance to wheat producers, was also defeated.
So many new Members, especially in the House, will present both opportunities and challenges for NAWG and other agricultural organizations, which will work throughout the next Congressional session to build relationships and educate new Members who may know very little about farming.
While it is yet unclear what the new make-up of the House and the split control of the legislative branch will mean for policies critical to wheat growers, multiple issues of serious concern remain outstanding.
Priorities that could be up for consideration in a lame duck session or in the coming year include three long-pending free trade agreements; action to prevent the logistical debacle of new pesticide application permitting requirements; and work to craft an estate tax policy that makes sense for agricultural operations.
A strong system of publicly-funded agricultural research and a farm economy safety net that functions well for all growers and all crops are key priorities in the next few years as well.
NAWG is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates and strives to work with all elected officials.
The Association’s grower-leaders and staff look forward to working closely with the new leadership of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and are particularly appreciative of Peterson’s and Lincoln’s work as chairmen in recent years.