The changes imminent in Senate and House leadership resulting from the mid-term election likely will create new opportunities and challenges for America’s farmers, but the one certainty remaining is that no effective farm legislation will pass without strong support from both parties.
Many agricultural committee members in both houses will remain active, even as chairmanships move from the Republican to the Democratic Party.
Some likely new faces in key positions include:
Collin Peterson, D-Minn., will become House Agriculture Committee Chairman. Observers expect the incoming chairman to work closely with current Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who likely will stay on as Ranking Republican on the committee. Peterson has a reputation as a strong supporter of farmers and ranchers, both as a member of the Minnesota State Senate and as a member of Congress serving on the committee.
Last year, Peterson introduced legislation to extend the 2002 farm bill and was joined by most Democratic members of the committee. Petersen also has suggested that, with Doha trade negotiations appearing stalled or dead, a long-term rewrite is appropriate but believes current policy prescribed in the 2002 farm bill is in line with his vision for the 2007 farm bill.
Observers expect efforts for an enhanced energy title and a permanent standing disaster program as key objectives. Other likely House Agriculture Committee changes include: Subcommittee Chairmen: Richard Pombo, R-Calif., and Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., were defeated in close contests. William L. Jenkins, R-Tenn., retired. Congressmen Tom Osborne R-Neb., Joe Schwartz, R-Mich. and Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., also will depart the committee.
The new senior Republican lineup on the committee after Goodlatte includes: Terry Everett, R-Ala.; Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Robin Hayes, R-N.C.; Timothy V. Johnson, R-Ill.; and Mike Pence, R-Ind. All are strong supporters of the 2002 farm bill.
Congressman Ed Case, D-Hawaii, is believed to be the only Democrat leaving the committee. He retired and made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate. Congressmen Tim Holden, Penn.; Mike McIntyre, N.C.; Bob Etheridge, N.C.; Joe Baca, Calif.; and Dennis A. Cardoza, Calif., are senior members for the Democratic majority. All but Cardoza were on board for the 2002 farm bill and were strong supporters.
The committee makeup could change when the new Congress begins next year.
Tom Harkin, Iowa, likely will succeed Chairman Saxby Chambliss, Ga., as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Harkin was a key team player in the development and passage of the 2002 farm bill as the committee’s chairman. He was the architect of the Conservation Security Program (CSP) and will likely wish to fully fund this program, at a cost estimated at about $10 billion.
Chambliss was instrumental in passage of the 2002 farm bill and sought to extend this legislation last year during reconciliation.
Other changes in Senate Ag committee leadership include:
Subcommittee Chairmen Rick Santorum, Penn., and Senator Jim Talent, Mo., were defeated for re-election. Senator Mark Dayton, D-Minn., retired. Otherwise, committee composition is unchanged, though new members may come and current members may decide to leave for other committees.
New Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is expected to seek a seat on the committee, putting two Minnesotans on the panel. Sen. Talent was a strong friend of agriculture and lead sponsor of the farm bill extension legislation in the Senate.
Changes on other committees also may affect agriculture.
A key will be in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee where Herb Kohl, Wis., is likely to replace Robert Bennett, R-Utah, as chairman.
On the Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, N.D., will replace Judd Gregg, N.H. Conrad worked to secure $79 billion in 2002 to write the farm bill and is considered a solid friend of agriculture and key architect of current farm and crop insurance policy.
On the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jeff Bingaman, Democrat from New Mexico, likely will replace Sen. Pete Domenici, also from New Mexico. Domenici was instrumental in pushing a higher RFS through the Senate.
Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., likely will chair the Environment and Public Works Committee, replacing James M. Inhofe. That assumes Democrats will seat Lieberman as an Independent. Lieberman has introduced legislation to step up ethanol production and use.
Finance (tax and trade): Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., replaces Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. The two reportedly work closely on taxes (including for renewable energy) and trade. Other House committee changes of note include:
On the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Conn., takes the reigns.
In the House Budget Committee, Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa, retired in an unsuccessful bid for Governor. Congressman John M. Spratt, D-S.C., considered a good friend of agriculture, takes the reigns as committee chairman.
On the GOP side, congressman Jim Ryun, R-Kan., was defeated, leaving congressman Ander Crenshaw, Fla., in line for Ranking Member. This committee is key to obtaining an adequate budget baseline to write a new farm bill.
Energy and Commerce: Congressman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., switches roles with congressman Joe Barton, R-Texas. Transportation: Congressman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., replaces congressman Don Young, Ark. Observers consider Oberstar a good friend of agriculture who has an interest in addressing non-point source pollution, which has implications for agriculture. Ways and Means Committee: Congressman Charles B. Rangel, N.Y., replaces congressman William M. Thomas, Calif., who retired. E. Clay Shaw, Fla., and Nancy Johnson, Conn., were next in line for Ranking Republican but were both defeated for re-election, leaving Wally Herger, Calif., and Jim McCrery, La., next in line.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Calif., will likely be the next Speaker of the House. Observers say Pelosi was not a supporter of the 2002 farm bill, but has shown a strong interest recently in working with congressmen Peterson and Marion Berry, D-Ark., and others in addressing rural and agriculture issues.
Sen. Harry Reid is in line to become Senate Majority Leader with Sen. Mitch McConnell, Ky., the Ranking Republican. Both are considered, strong supporters of rural and agricultural issues.
Majority Whip is likely to be Sen. Richard Durbin, Ill.