There's a reason elections are held and games are played: despite logic, there's no telling the outcome.

Even cynical Republicans who expected their party to lose some ground had to be stunned, losing control of both the Senate and the House in a single election. Congressional control is in the hands of the Democrats for the first time in a dozen years.

From an ag perspective, the first thing one has to wonder is how this will impact the next farm bill, which is to be written during the next session of Congress. If the Democrats hold true to form, there also likely will be more government support to legislate markets and grow taxes.

According to a report issued by the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) following the election, citing Colin Woodall, director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA):

--Collin Peterson (D-MN) is likely to become House Ag Committee chairman. An ally to NCBA on issues in the past, helping defeat attacks by animal activist groups, Peterson has said that, as chairman, he'll make implementing mandatory country-of-origin labeling a priority. Woodall also expects upcoming farm bill discussions in Peterson's committee to take a heavier slant toward ideas such as bans on packer ownership and forward contracting.

--Tom Harkin (D-IA) is expected to return as Senate Ag Committee chairman. Woodall says current chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) will continue to have a lot of power, especially during negotiations on the new farm bill.

--Woodall characterizes Rep. Nancy Pelosi (likely the next House Speaker) as "a liberal Democrat representing the urban heart of San Francisco." She has no production ag in her district and is strongly supported by animal and environmental activist groups. He says Pelosi will more than likely defer to Peterson on ag issues.

"Along with the loss of key industry supporters in Congress, Woodall explains there will be a loss of priority focused on top NCBA issues such as full and permanent repeal of the Death Tax and exempting manure from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund laws."

Heading into this election, NCBA members identified these guiding principles for farm-bill priorities:

  • Support a reduction of the federal deficit while assuring funding for farm-bill priorities, without ag bearing a disproportionate share of the reductions.
  • Minimize direct federal involvement in ag-production methods.
  • Preserve the individual's right to manage land, water and other resources.
  • Provide an opportunity to compete in foreign markets.
  • Support equitable farm policy.
In presenting these at a House Ag Committee hearing in September, NCBA president Mike John, said, "It's not in the nation's farmers' or ranchers' best interest for the government to implement policy that sets prices, underwrites inefficient production, or manipulates domestic supply, demand, cost or price."

For more thoughts, see the commentary by BEEF magazine's Troy Marshall at the end of this issue of BEEF Stocker Trends.