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

Fertilizer Tender close-up
MicronutrientsHow Micronutrients Fit Into 2017 Fertility Plans
January 10, 2017
Where do micronutrients stand going forward in fertility plans? For one thing, Tim Mundorf, Field Representative with Midwest Laboratories, says Read More
Fertilizer application
State of the IndustryCautious Optimism On Fertilizer In 2017
January 10, 2017
What kind of fertilizer rates are growers and retailers looking at in 2017 and beyond? According to stakeholders CropLife magazine Read More
Asmus Farm Supply crop protection products in storage
State of the IndustryCrop Protection Products Market: Complexity Begets Opportunity
January 10, 2017
While other key market segments in agriculture continue to see tumultuous shifts in sales volumes going forward (large equipment sales are Read More
Pioneer corn seed in storage
Special ReportsState Of The Seed Industry: Better Later Than Never
January 3, 2017
Traditionally, the majority of the nation’s grower-customers made their seed planting decisions in the late fall. Normally, when folks attended Read More
Trending Articles
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Cause of Gar Tootelian Fire Under Investigation
August 7, 2017
Over one hundred firefighters and equipment responded to a four-alarm shop fire at the Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) facility in Read More
Rob Versprille
ManagementCeres Solutions, North Central Co-op Merger to Bring New Opportunities for Indiana, Michigan Farmers
August 1, 2017
More than 40,000 customers and almost 9,000 Indiana and Michigan farmers will begin doing business with the new Ceres Solutions Read More
CPS-Norwood-and-Dupont-reps
Eric SfiligojA Message to Ag Retailers: Do Tell Your Good Stories
July 26, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance ag Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow’s Tim Hassinger Named President, CEO of Lindsay Corp.
July 24, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Latest News
Corn Seed
Seed/BiotechSeed Innovations Benefit All of the Seed Industry
August 17, 2017
Innovations from throughout the seed industry help address many of the economic, environmental and health issues we face as a Read More
SpreadersGVM to Introduce New Prowler at MAGIE
August 17, 2017
The newest Prowler in GVM’s line-up will be introduced next week at the Midwest Ag Industries Expo (MAGIE), August 23 Read More
AcreEdge bag
Seed/BiotechLandus Cooperative’s AcreEdge Seed Brand Gears Up for 2…
August 17, 2017
Growers in more than 26 Iowa and Minnesota counties are seeing field signs with a new brand name at end Read More
Engenia soybeans
ManagementCorn and Soybean Yield Forecasts Larger than Expected
August 17, 2017
The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels Read More
ManagementU.S. Ag Secretary Introduces SCORE
August 17, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a new agreement to support new and beginning farmers. On August 5, Perdue joined Read More
CHS-FFA-Minnesota
CropLife 100CHS and FFA: A Homerun Partnership
August 17, 2017
CHS hosted the Minnesota FFA for its annual FFA night at CHS Field. FFA students, educators and CHS leadership enjoyed Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Gar Tootelian Foundation Donates Half Million Dollars t…
August 16, 2017
Students at Immanuel Elementary are looking forward to the first day of school for two reasons this year. One, they Read More
Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fi…
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Top 10 Crop Protection Companies, Post-Mega Mergers
August 14, 2017
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. In fact, some prominent celebrities such as David Letterman spent much of their Read More
ManagementThe DuPont-Granular Deal, Dicamba Update, and Upcoming …
August 11, 2017
Matthew Grassi joins Paul Schrimpf for the second week in a row to talk about DuPont’s acquisition of Granular, as Read More
Soybeans weeds
HerbicidesOngoing Evaluation Key to Controlling Weeds, Improving …
August 10, 2017
As the sun bears down on record U.S. soybean acres this August, farmers keep their eyes on their fields to Read More
Young Corn Plants
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Offers Novel Product to Battle Pythium, O…
August 10, 2017
After a season plagued by seedling diseases caused by cool, wet soils at planting, farmers have a new option to Read More
Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to …
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality…
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Natives-First-Purple_Prairie_Clover
Seed/BiotechLa Crosse Seed Continues Focus on Soil and Water Conser…
August 9, 2017
La Crosse Seed is doing its part to lead communication to ag retailers across the country on the importance of Read More
HerbicidesAg Secretary Perdue Comments on Dicamba Issue
August 9, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a Read More
Treated-Seed-in-planter
Seed/BiotechSeed Treatment Q&A: Insight from Iowa State’s…
August 8, 2017
Technology has changed drastically since the 1990s. Televisions are thinner, phones are smaller and tractors can steer themselves. Technology has Read More
soybeans
Seed/BiotechWhen and Why to Double Inoculate Your Soybeans
August 8, 2017
Double inoculation is the act of using a double application of a rhizobial inoculant. This quickly establishes high populations of Read More