Last Tuesday, voters came out in record numbers for the midterm elections, a likely symptom of greater political engagement and anxiety. The outcomes of these elections will have significant implications for local, state, and federal issues – including food and agriculture.
Though trade, renewable fuels, corporate consolidation, and other important farm policy will undoubtedly be influenced by shifts within the House and Senate, the upcoming farm bill will probably be among the first and most notable affected pieces of legislation. Should the farm bill drag into the new year, the makeup of the conference committee would remain mostly the same, since most conferees up for reelection – besides Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) – won their campaigns. However, leadership positions would markedly change. Because Democrats regained control of the House, current Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) would take over Chairman Mike Conaway’s (R-TX) role at the head of the House Committee on Agriculture.
It is unclear how, precisely, these changes will affect the content and timing of the farm bill. However, many expect that this will expedite its passage, as Republicans would prefer to negotiate and vote while they still hold a majority. Whatever bill the committee agrees on will, in all probability, be a compromiseof the two chamber’s vastly different versions.