Mid-term elections couldn’t come soon enough for me.

The seemingly never-ending onslaught of don’t-trust-my-rascal-opponent ads was beginning to wear pretty thin. Thankfully, the multi-media blitzes have faded away, hopefully not to be heard from again for at least another year or so.

Take a deep breath and exhale. Ahhh! That feels better.

Okay, now it’s time to get back to work.

Perhaps at no other time in U.S. history has agriculture had so much at stake. Regardless of whether your candidates won or lost, party politics must be set aside to address the real work that lies ahead.

Ag Issues Abound

About the time this issue of National Hog Farmer reaches your mailbox, the sitting Congress will be back in Washington to address the 2011 appropriations bills, Bush administration’s tax cuts, inheritance tax, ethanol blender’s and biodiesel tax credits, tariff on imported ethanol, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) food safety reform and child nutrition reauthorization.

The election’s outcome will likely determine how many of these items will be tackled before year’s end and how many will spill into the laps of the newly elected men and women of Congress — some of them rookies.

Here’s a short list of impending agricultural initiatives facing Congress after the mid-term elections:

  • Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed rule;
  • Antibiotic regulation;
  • Clean Water Act;
  • Clean Air Act/air emissions;
  • Food safety;
  • Ethanol policies;
  • 2012 farm bill.

I placed the proposed GIPSA rule at the top of the heap for a reason — it is perhaps the most contentious, livestock-centered issue agriculture has faced in many years; its impact could potentially reshape the U.S. poultry and livestock industries.

Over 100 congressmen from both major parties felt so strongly about the GIPSA rule that they filed a bipartisan letter of concern with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, calling on USDA’s chief economist to provide a comprehensive economic analysis of the proposed rule. In addition, many feel the proposed rule reaches way beyond the direction provided in the 2008 farm bill. The non-partisan group stressed that the proposed rule does not fully assess the need for the rule, the impact it will have on the marketplace, nor how the rule will be enacted.

What irked members of the House and Senate agriculture committees most was that the proposed rule contains many elements and wording that were thoroughly discussed and eliminated by Congress when the 2008 farm bill was written.

Some described the proposed
rule as “a clear invasion of the government into the private marketplace,” a tendency that seems all too common in Washington these days.

Keep an Eye on EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also seems primed to add more regulations and initiatives on U.S. agriculture. In the Senate, members of both parties have raised concerns about the agency’s focus on air emissions, dust, greenhouse gases, settling Clean Water Act lawsuits, phosphorus standards in water, ethanol use and more.

Former agriculture secretary and Republican Senator from Nebraska Mike Johanns describes the non-stop regulatory assaults on agriculture as excessive. His colleague, Blanche Lincoln, Democrat from Arkansas and chair of the Senate Ag Committee echoed those concerns, noting the EPA is not setting achievable goals for farmers, nor providing the tools and resources needed for compliance. Similar concerns have been filed by members of the House of Representatives.

A Messy Business

Politics is a messy business, but it cannot be ignored. Doing so would surely impact how you raise and care for your hogs, where you market them.

In a way, it reminds me of the
civics classes we had in high school, which were essentially meant to reinforce our civic duty — the privileges and obligations the citizens of a democratic society share.

Casting a ballot on Nov. 2 was an important step. The next steps should lead you toward a greater understanding of the laws and regulations coming out of our nation’s Capitol, filing your opinions and concerns with those who represent you today. Their campaign pledges promised to represent you in good conscience. Hold them to that pledge. Never underestimate the importance of sharing your thoughts, filing your concerns, and providing solid information that can help your representatives understand how their actions affect your pork enterprise.