Election Day
Record numbers turned out to vote in midterm election

Farm groups urge quick response to farm bill in lame duck session

UPDATED: Farm groups urge quick passage fo farm bill, look to cooperate with new members of Congress.

Farm organizations are hoping that a change in the Washington power structure will encourage the current Congress to move quickly to pass a farm bill in a lame duck session.

They also pledge to work with new members of Congress when they are seated in January and hope for a more bi-partisan atmosphere.

Some suggest that the U.S. House of Representatives switching to Democrat control following the midterm elections could encourage Congress to make necessary compromises to pass a farm bill rather than risk starting over in 2019.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, (R-Texas) hopes to complete the job he started more than two years ago.

“Yesterday’s election results don’t change the circumstances in farm country,” Conaway said following the election. “I remain 100 percent committed to completing the farm bill this year.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a phone interview with Farm Press that farmers and their bankers need the assurance of a farm bill to prepare for 2019 crop preparation.

American Soybean Association

John Heisdorffer, American Soybean Association president and a soybean grower from Keota, Iowa, emphasized in a press release how important the farm bill is to rural America. “The Farm Bill is our greatest risk management tool. With the economic challenges facing all farmers today, tools such as crop insurance, as well as ARC and PLC, are invaluable.” Heisdorffer said.

ASA remains positive that members of the House and Senate agriculture committees can resolve differences between their respective bills and agree on a compromise version in December.

More is at stake. “In addition to support from farm programs, funding for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and Market Access Program (MAP) is needed,” said Heisdorffer. “FMD funding has already lapsed, and MAP funding will run out at year’s end. These programs are critical to the soybean industry, particularly with the need to open and expand markets to offset sales lost to China.”

"We continue to be concerned that Congress has not sent the President the 2018 farm bill," says Armond Morris, Georgia Peanut Commission.  "Georgia growers are in a more difficult position due to recent production and infrastructure losses due to Hurricane Michael.  In addition to the financial burdens from the 2018 crop losses, it will be even more difficult to obtain credit for the 2019 crop without the 2018 farm bill in place. In the 116th Congress, Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota will Chair the House Agriculture Committee.  We know Chairman Peterson and look forward to working with him."

USA Rice

The outcome of this election will have an impact on USA Rice's legislative priorities, from the farm bill to trade, according to a press release from USA Rice.

The rice organization also urges the 115th Congress to push to get a farm bill passed this year, noting that “it's critical that a new farm bill is passed before the next Congress takes over in January. If a farm bill is not passed by the end of this year and no extension of the 2014 farm bill is passed, the legislative process must start all over. If this is the case, a new farm bill final product is destined to look much different in the 116th Congress than what the conferees are currently negotiating.”

The release noted that the Senate version from the next Congress likely would change little but “a bill out of the House with a Democrat majority has the potential to be drastically different. Rep. (Collin) Peterson, D-Minn., the presumptive incoming chair of the House Agriculture Committee, has already stated publicly that he does not want to write another bill and is pushing for a conference report to be approved by both chambers before the end of the year.”

See also: Farmers hoping for farm bill passage in wake of House flip

Robert Guenther, senior vice president, public policy, United Fresh Produce Association, reacted to the 2018 midterm election results. “Americans across the country showed up in record numbers to elect a new Congress. With a new Democratic House, and a Republican Senate, much is at stake in the next two years,” Guenther said. “We look forward to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to advance the priorities of the fresh produce industry. Passing a new farm bill, ensuring a reliable workforce and creating new trade opportunities will remain our top priorities in the 116th Congress.”

USA Rice notes several issues of concern, including potential for trade barriers compromising the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as well as trade with Cuba.

See also: ASA: It's time to pass a new farm bill

The release also indicates most incumbent legislators from rice country were re-elected.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., however, lost to Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, and incumbent Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D), a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, will compete in a runoff Nov. 27.

“The only rice district House race yet to be called is California's 10th Congressional District where incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham (R) is facing Democratic challenger Josh Harder. Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw (R) won in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, taking over the seat of retiring Rep. Ted Poe (R).”

Duvall says Farm Bureau will work with new legislators and will help educate them on what America’s farmers and ranchers need.

Looking to Cooperate

“We look forward to working with the new Congress to strengthen agriculture by fixing the ag labor problems we face, boosting our farm economy via export growth and reducing the burden and cost of federal regulations,” Duvall said in a release. “Supporting the use of farm-grown fuels, fixing our nation’s broken infrastructure, supporting agricultural research, and bridging the broadband gap that hurts rural America are also important for a strong agriculture. We hope the newly elected leaders across the nation will join us in unifying behind these goals.”

Heisdorffer says agriculture has always counted on support from both Democrats and Republicans and expects to see that longstanding bipartisan cooperation renewed.

“ASA reiterates its request for the now lame duck 115th Congress to pass a new five-year bill that can provide greater certainty and long-term stability during a down farm economy and time of trade strife,” Heisdorffer said. “It is also important to reaffirm our commitment to conservation practices, invest in agricultural research and work to expand new markets for soybeans.”

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