Elections point to continuity in agricultural policy

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama’s election as the 44th president of the United States was not expected to bring a significant shift in farm policy, especially given the nation’s more pressing challenges. Continuity in farm policy also was suggested by the re-election of most members of the House Committee on Agriculture and of those members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry who stood for re-election during this cycle. Those committees drafted and shepherded through the 110th Congress the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, the current law embodying most U.S. farm programs, which was supported by President-elect Obama.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama was known as a proponent of federal support for biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, as part of a comprehensive energy policy. In this he agreed with the agriculture committees but differed with his opponent Senator John McCain of Arizona, who advocated the ending of ethanol subsidies. Mr. Obama supported the implementation of the farm bill’s country-of-origin labeling provisions. He also was on record in support of a ban on meat packer ownership of livestock, a measure that failed to be incorporated in the farm bill but was strongly supported by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

There were no indications there will be disputes between Mr. Obama and Congress over farm policy as his term begins.

Two Democratic and six Republican members of the Senate agriculture committee stood for re-election. Six retained their seats but two races, both involving Republican incumbents, were too close to call at the week’s end and the final results may not be known well into next month.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, Mr. Harkin and Senator Max Baucus of Montana easily beat their challengers.

On the Republican side, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, ranking Republican member of the agriculture committee, faced a possible runoff election with Democratic opponent Jim Martin.

In Minnesota, Senator Norm Coleman and Democratic candidate Al Franken each claimed 42% of the vote, though Mr. Coleman enjoyed the slimmest of leads. Under Minnesota state law, a recount is automatic in instances when the election margin is within a half percentage point.

Republican agriculture committee members retaining their seats were Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

All 25 Democratic members of the House Committee on Agriculture stood for reelection. Twenty-two retained their seats and three were defeated by their Republican challengers.

Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, chairman of the House agriculture committee, coasted to victory, and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, the committee’s vice-chairman, defeated his challenger.

Other Democratic members of the agriculture committee winning re-election were Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, Leonard Boswell of Iowa, Joe Baca of California, Dennis Cardoza of California (unopposed), David Scott of Georgia, Jim Marshall of Georgia, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Costa of California, John Salazar of Colorado, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, Zachary Space of Ohio, Timothy Walz of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, John Barrow of Georgia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Travis Childers of Mississippi.

Defeated in their bids for reelection were Representatives Nancy Boyda of Kansas, Tim Mahoney of Florida and Nick Lampson of Texas.

Nineteen of 20 Republican members of the House agriculture committee stood for re-election. Representative Terry Everett of Alabama did not run, having earlier announced he would retire at the end of the current Congress. Fifteen Republican members of the agriculture committee were re-elected and four were defeated by their Democratic challengers.

Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, ranking minority member of the agriculture committee and the committee’s former chairman, defeated his Democratic opponent.

Other Republican members of the committee to win re-election were Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Timothy Johnson of Illinois, Sam Graves of Missouri, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Steve King of Iowa, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Charles Boustany of Louisiana, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, K. Michael Conaway of Texas (unopposed), Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Robert Latta of Ohio.

Republican committee members defeated in their bid for reelection were Robin Hayes of North Carolina, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Randy Kuhl of New York and Tim Walberg of Michigan.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, November 11, 2008, starting on Page 24. Click here to search that archive.

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