Agriculture Leaders React To Election

by 5m Editor
15 November 2004, at 12:00am

WASHINGTON, DC - The re-election of President George W. Bush is expected to signal four years of favorable business climate for the nation's agricultural industry -- and for expanded trade opportunities, according to Washington sources, reported Feedstuffs.

Kirk Ferrell, top lobbyist for the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, predicted that the livestock industry will be "very well positioned coming out of this election for working both on livestock and trade policy."

According to Feedstuffs, election results showed solid support for the President in major farm-belt states and rural areas. Ferrell said White House and Bush campaign strategists are well aware of the rural support in their re-election victory, and he believes that support will be rewarded in the President's second term.

Additionally, Republican victories in the White House, Senate and House mean that in addition to support in the White House, "we've gained some new friends in the Senate and House that are going to be livestock friendly," Ferrell told Feedstuffs.

In a major upset for a senator who had been a go-to guy on many important ag issues -- such as renewable fuels -- Daschle's heralded "prairie populism" failed him this time, and he lost his bid for re-election. The South Dakota race, which pitted the popular former Rep. John Thune (R., S.D.) as Daschle's challenger, was the most expensive race in the nation as Republicans successfully ousted the man they blamed for holding up the Bush agenda and judicial nominees during the President's first term.

Daschle's successor is a known and well-respected quantity in Washington agricultural circles. Thune, a Republican with a distinguished record on the House Agriculture Committee, will bring key agricultural support to the Senate. While Senate committee assignments will not be firmed up until the beginning of the new session in January, most believe Thune will be a key addition to the Senate Agriculture Committee as 2007 farm bill preliminary discussions are set to begin -- likely in the second quarter of 2005.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to have a new chairman in the next session. Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), the current chairman, is in line to become chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. His replacement depends on if Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), now the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, returns to that post. Under Senate rules, he has "termed out" as chairman, but because of the importance of the intelligence agency reforms now before the Senate, there is talk of a waiver to keep Roberts at that sensitive post.

If not, he likely will take the reins of the ag committee, reported Feedstuffs.

Should Roberts not be available to chair the ag committee, it is believed that job will go to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), the next-most senior Republican who is not already pledged to a leadership position.

According to Feedstuffs, perhaps the greatest election loss to agriculture was in Texas, where redrawing of district boundaries ended up costing longtime Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D., Texas) his seat. Stenholm, who has served as the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee for the past two farm bills, is noted for bipartisanship and is considered to have an institutional knowledge of U.S. farm policy. A budget hawk, he has long been the leading voice for fiscal conservatism among Democrats.

House Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) was handily re-elected.

Stenholm will be replaced as the committee's ranking Democrat by Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), whose district encompasses much of western Minnesota. Peterson, an accountant before running for the House, is also a budget hawk but is thought to have populist leanings.

Among the newly elected members of Congress, Colorado is sending two Democrats -- brothers -- who have extensive knowledge of agriculture. Ken Salazar, newly elected to the Senate, is best known as Colorado's former attorney general but previously served as the state's director of natural resources.

His brother, John Salazar, who was elected to represent Colorado's western slope and southern tier, is a seed potato grower and a former state legislator. The brothers have deep family roots in the intensive irrigated agriculture of the San Luis Valley, a high mountain valley known for production of potatoes, brewing barley and canola.

Ferrell said he looks forward to the arrival of Rep. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) to the Senate seat vacated by Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Ferrell said Burr is a "friend of the industry" and is knowledgeable about its issues.

Last week, Bush made it clear during his first post-election press conference that he had made no decisions about his Cabinet posts or White House staff. He noted that he would begin that process during a weekend retreat with his family to Camp David.

Source: National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - 12th November 2004

5m Editor