Expert Shares Beltway Outlook

Despite what would appear to be a favorable turnover in national legislators for agriculture during the most recent election cycle, 2011 will be a challenging year for industry interests says Randy Russell, agriculture policy expert and president of Russell & Barron, Inc. Russell spoke to attendees at the recent Agricultural Retailers Association conference in Palm Springs, CA.

The legislative mix will change significantly, both in total members of both branches of Congress and within key committees. Of the 28 Democrats that were on the House agriculture committee, 15 of them went down to defeat in November. The new Agriculture Committee Chair, Republican Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, is experienced and highly knowledgeable, and will bring a common sense approach to the leadership role, says Russell.

In the Senate, the defeat of Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will necessitate a change in leadership in its Ag Committee as well. North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad was next in line for the position but he declined it to remain chair of the Budget Committee, so Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will take on the position. Russell says Stabenow brings experience in the dairy and specialty markets, as well as knowledge of nutrition issues.

Overall in the Senate, Stabenow is one of eight Senate Ag Committee members that will be up for reelection in 2012, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) is the only Republican among them.

Russell laid out several key issues to watch going into 2011 that will impact agriculture:

Presidential Politics: The presidential campaign will start in earnest early in 2011, and Russell expects several key factors to weigh in. Beyond the economy and unemployment and barring more significant events that can’t be foreseen, the state of affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continuing sagas in Iran and North Korea will be the most significant issues to watch as the campaign progresses.

One of the biggest mysteries now is who will emerge as the Republican candidates for president, but Russell believes it won’t be anyone who’s currently in the spotlight. “I honestly could not tell you who will be the Republican nominee, but if I had to put money on it I would say we’ll see emerging candidates from the governor ranks,” said Russell. “Someone with executive office experience.”

Tightening Electoral College: As is typical in mid-term elections, the sitting party in the White House came out on the short end in governor’s races. While Democrats unseated Republicans in 5 states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont – Republicans won 11 governorships from the Democrats (Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming). As the country enters another redistricting cycle, Republicans should gain some measure of electoral advantage by holding the majority of the country’s governor positions for the first time since 2006.

Budget Realities: Russell emphasized what’s been discussed in the media about the real challenge of cutting the federal deficit in meaningful ways, noting that 71% of the federal budget is spent on Social Security, defense, Medicare and Medicaid. “Talk of eliminating earmarks and freezing spending is all well and good, and might be exactly the right thing to do,” noted Russell. “But it is hardly going to make a dent on our total debt and it is hardly going to make a bit impact on the annual deficit.” 

USDA Budget Realities: The above being said, every department will be called upon to cut spending, including USDA. Only 30% of the program directly involves agriculture in the form of program payments, conservation programs and other farmer services – the remaining 70% is nutrition, including SNAP (formerly the food stamp program) and school meal programs.

Given the condition of the economy, Russell said it will be politically difficult to pull back on nutrition programs in a big way, so cutbacks should be expected in farmer-based programs. “Definitely, nothing will be off the table. I don’t think ag will be asked to give back disproportionately, but we will be asked to do our share,” he said.

Farm Bill Slowdown: With so much budget work to do, and the impending Republican takeover of the House, Russell believes that mark-ups for the 2012 Farm Bill won’t see the light of day until later this summer.

Back Door Regulations: Now that onerous environmental legislation has virtually no chance of moving through the House with a divided Congress, Russell says that agriculture will need to closely monitor and engage with EPA. “What they cannot get done through legislation they will try to do by fiat through regulation,” said Russell.

And in the White House, EPA clearly has the upper hand over USDA. “It’s clear that EPA is running the show,” said Russell. “I recommend watching the Federal Register carefully.”

Leave a Reply

State of the Industry Stories

State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesValent To Discontinue Gangster Herbicide
September 22, 2014
Valent will discontinue Gangster Herbicide after the 2015 growing season as growers can now deploy Fierce XLT herbicide in soybeans. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More