The Republican Party made historic gains in last week’s election by winning over 60 congressional seats. This is the largest change in the number of seats since 1946. The Republicans will have the largest House majority since 1928. It is estimated that the Republicans will have 240 seats and the Democrats 187 seats with eight still undecided. The biggest losses for the Democrats were in the Midwest, especially in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Rural and moderate Democrats were hit the hardest by the voters’ dissatisfaction with the direction of the federal government. Clearly, the economy was the most important issue for voters as 62% ranked it their top priority. Voters are not happy with either party as their disapproval for both parties stands at 53%. Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) will become Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 113th Congress. He served on the House Agriculture Committee for a number of years prior to becoming House Minority Leader. Boehner has indicated that two areas that Republicans will want to focus on are deficit spending and repeal of health care.
Democrats Hold the Senate — The Democrats held onto the Senate, although their margin is thinner. The Republicans gained six Senate seats with wins in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In a very closely watched race, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held onto his seat and will remain as Majority Leader. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Minority Leader.
Major Changes on Ag Committees — The election results mean major changes in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. In the Senate, Blanche Lincoln (D-AK), chair of the Agriculture Committee, lost her reelection bid to Congressman John Boozman (R-AK). Boozman is expected to be appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Leading candidates as the new chair of the Agricultural Committee are Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) or Kent Conrad (D-ND). Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) will remain as the ranking member of the committee. In the House, the Democrats felt some of their largest election losses on the House Agriculture Committee as 15 of the 28 members were defeated. Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK) will become chairman of the committee, as Collin Peterson (D-MN) becomes the ranking member. Lucas is expected to call for oversight hearings on the regulator overreach by the Environmental protection Agency (EPA). Lucas says the committee will write the next farm bill in 2012.
No Extension of Ethanol Credits — Various meat and livestock associations have written the House and Senate leadership opposing the ethanol industries’ proposal to extend the expiring blender’s tax credit and the tariff on imported ethanol. The group is also asking for a change in the definition of “advanced biofuels” to include corn ethanol in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). In the letter, the groups stated, “We support energy independence and the development of the renewable fuels industry, but we also support free, fair markets. This new proposal does nothing to develop the next generation of renewable fuels derived from non-feed and food sources. The federal government should move towards biofuels policies that do not force food and energy producers to compete with each other for key inputs and do not pick winners and losers in the alternative energy sector.” Those signing the letter were the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation.
P. Scott Shearer