The long-awaited election is over! This quick update focuses on results and wheat grower priorities in the coming lame duck session of Congress. More from NAWG is always available at www.twitter.com/wheatworld and www.facebook.com/wheatworld.
Election Season Over, Farm Bill Remains on the Table for Lame Duck
Election day has come and gone and one thing remains the same: farmers, consumers and the economy need a farm bill before the end of the 112th Congress. The Members of the Senate and House agriculture committees have invested significant time and effort to produce farm policy proposals over the past two years, both offering significant reform and serious reductions in overall spending. NAWG believes now is the time for House Leadership to recognize this work – and the importance of farm policy to the nation’s economy – and allow the farm bill to come to a vote. Passage of a new farm bill is the top priority for NAWG grower-leaders, state associations and staff until December. All farmers are encouraged to call their Members of Congress and House Leadership via the main switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to make their voices heard!
Balance of Power in D.C. Remains Status Quo
The balance of power in Washington, D.C., will be little changed in the coming Congressional term, though many are hopeful for a more conducive climate for compromise and tackling looming fiscal and policy challenges. President Barack Obama won re-election on Tuesday in a closely-watched and fiercely-fought race against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Obama will once again be faced with a divided political system, with the Senate remaining in Democratic control and Republicans holding on to the House of Representatives. Because Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday next year, Obama will be sworn into office privately at noon on Jan. 20, 2013, and the public inaugural ceremony will take place the next day, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.
Ag Committees Members Win, Lose and Draw on Election Day
Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are likely to see several new faces in the 113th Congress, set to be sworn in after the first of the year.
Current Senate Agriculture Committee members Sen. Bob Casey (D.-Pa.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) won their re-election bids. In other Senate races of note, Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska, and Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, will join the chamber next year. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) held on to his Senate seat in a close race against current Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.). On the House side, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) defeated Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) defeated his Democratic opponent, Christie Vilsack. House Agriculture Committee members Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Gibson (R-N.Y.) all held on to their seats, while Reps. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and Joe Baca (D-Calif.) were defeated, and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) is holding on to a slim lead in a race still too close to call.
Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) were all reelected. (Senate Ag Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was not up for reelection in this cycle.) More election night results are at www.google.com/elections or www.farmpolicy.com.
Biotech Labeling Proposition Defeated in California, But More on the Way
In California, voters rejected Proposition 37, which would have required special labeling of any retail food products containing an ingredient derived from a genetically modified crop. The measure lost 53 percent to 47 percent, as of press time. Prop 37 was opposed by a broad coalition of family farmers, scientists, doctors, business, labor, taxpayers and consumers. Nearly every daily newspaper in California also opposed Prop 37. It was estimated that the new regulations would have cost California families an additional $400 per year for groceries.
Leading scientific organizations that have reviewed the issue agree foods containing genetically engineered ingredients are safe and are not materially different than their traditional counterparts. However, backers of Prop 37 are vowing to continue their fight in other states and at the national level. Legislative efforts are taking place in Connecticut and Vermont, and a petition drive is underway in Washington State.
Groups to House Leaders: Lack of Farm Bill Puts Export Development Programs at Risk
NAWG and other members of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports wrote House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late last week urging passage of the 2012 Farm Bill pending in that chamber to avoid permanent damage to U.S. export market development infrastructure.
The Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, two export programs administered by USDA, no longer have authorization because of the expired farm bill. This means no new payments can be made from the programs, and current funding will run out for cooperating organizations like U.S. Wheat Associates early in the new year, seriously compromising critical day-to-day export market development and promotion activities. Studies have shown that for every additional $1 spent by government and industry on market development, U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35, making these programs among the most successful in government. The full letter is available at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/trade-MAPFMD-to-house-leaders-20121102.pdf.
Extra Credit: Farm Foundation Forum About Elections on Nov. 14
The Farm Foundation is offering a free webcast of its forum on the 2012 elections’ effect on agriculture policy, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. Eastern time. The forum will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., featuring a lineup of speakers including budget policy specialists, farm policy watchers and a farmer from Indiana. More information is at http://www.farmfoundation.org/farmfoundationforums.aspx. Registration for the webcast is at www.visualwebcaster.com/Farmfoundationforum.