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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Creates, Fills New Pacific Northwest Sales P…
March 30, 2015
H.J. Baker announced today that Gary Bingham has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division to further deepen its sales portfolio Read More
Algal blooms
StewardshipStudy: Algae From Clogged Waterways Could Be Used As Bi…
March 30, 2015
Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists are reporting Read More
Young corn plants
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit Coming To DC
March 30, 2015
The annual 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit will be held on May 12 in Washington DC. The summit will include a full Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More