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Election Impact Pending Food & Agriculture Policy Lame Duck and Beyond

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 The Mid-term power shift will result in significant changes on both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. In the US Senate, Chairwoman Blanch Lincoln (D-AR) lost her reelection bid and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will likely take over the chairmanship unless more senior members on the Committee opt to relinquish other Committee Chairmanships. Senator Stabenow has a long history of supporting the specialty crop industry, nutrition, energy and research – all important issues for her state.

In the House, nearly half of the Democrats on the Agriculture Committee did not win their reelection bids. With the shift in party control Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) is slated to be named Chairman. In addition to continuing Farm Bill oversight hearings which were initiated by Chairman Colin Peterson (D-MN) over the past year, Rep. Lucas is expected to take an aggressive stance toward the Committee’s role in oversight, especially with regard to recent regulatory actions by both USDA and EPA that impact agriculture producers.

Agriculture issues and policy tend to be more regional than national in scope and thus more bipartisan. However, the shift in leadership at the Committee and party levels is likely to impact the timing and substance of any legislation considered over the next two years. Prospects for lame duck action on child nutrition and food safety legislation remain uncertain.

Agriculture related issues such as the expiring agriculture tax credits, rural development, trade and alternative energy are likely to be revisited by the Committees. Many of these issues, in addition to “direct payment” to agriculture producers, will also be debated in the context of oversight hearings that will continue on the reauthorization of the next Farm Bill. Legislative action in this area will most likely be pushed back to 2012.

Continued budgetary pressures from agriculture and non-agriculture groups such as nutrition, environment, specialty crop, and alternative energy will be fighting over a declining farm bill budget which will definitely impact overall efforts to pass a final bill.
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