Reader surveys and online polls ahead of the November presidential election consistently indicated that BEEF readers preferred Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a wide margin over Barack Obama. And that support within agriculture for the Republican nominee appears to have been wider than just beef producers.

The Associated Press reported that exit polls estimated that 61% of rural voters supported Mitt Romney, with 37% backing Obama. The problem for rural Romney supporters, however, is that rural voters accounted for just 14% of the turnout.

Meanwhile, Obama rode to victory a winning and diverse coalition that included significant majorities of blacks (94%), Hispanics (70%), single women (68%), and voters 18-29 years of age (60%). 

More of the same

So, after a record election in terms of political spending, nothing much changed. Obama won a second term, Democrats retained control in the Senate, and Republicans the House. Colin Woodall, point man on Capitol Hill for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), says the lack of change is both bad and good for U.S. beef producers.

“The general dynamic and philosophies stayed much like we’ve had the past two years. That’s bad for us because we’re not going to have the opportunity to see some major reform like we’d hoped – major tax reform, major Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform. That’s just completely off the table now.

“But, at the same time, it’s the same dynamic we’ve been working with the past two years, so we know how to navigate those waters. And I think that will help us take away some of the surprise in figuring out what the next two years will look like in Washington, D.C.,” he says.

While voters went Democrat on the national level, the state level was a different matter. Republicans are at their highest level of control of state governments in 60 years.

“Individually, the state legislatures have a huge impact on our cattlemen in their respective states. Most of the red states seemed to have gotten redder this election on the state legislative side and that probably bodes pretty well for cattle producers,” Woodall says.

The fact that U.S. agriculture went overwhelmingly Republican in the November election wasn’t lost on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, either. In early December, he told attendees of a Farm Journal forum that rural America is “becoming less and less relevant.”

Vilsack told the conference he’s frustrated with agriculture’s internal warfare and suggested they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.

“Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” Vilsack asked. “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”