FARMERS FACE NEW POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The debates and the rallies are over. The campaign ads -- positive and negative, but mostly negative -- are finally off the air. The appeals for campaign donations are ... well, those haven't ended yet. But Election Day has come and gone and now it's time to assess how agriculture might fare in the new political environment.
President-elect Barack Obama won a "decisive and historic" election, says Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president. Now, he says, the administration and Congress will need to get to work to address a long list of issues, including the economy, energy, immigration, trade and implementation of the farm bill.
While there are different points of view on those issues, Stallman says, "each person elected to office ran for office to improve this country," and Farm Bureau looks forward to working with every one.
AFBF has been around since 1919 and has worked with 16 presidents and hundreds of members of Congress. Farm Bureau will continue its long record of non-partisan policy advocacy on behalf of farmers and ranchers.
Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, liked to intersperse his catch-phrase, "My Friends," into his speeches. Obama was known for saying, "Look," to introduce a thought. Now, farmers and others will look at how each and every one of Obama's actions could affect their productivity and profitability.
Obama's support for a farm safety net and biofuel production incentives bodes well for farmers. Working with the new Congress, comprehensive immigration reform may have a better chance of passing.
On international trade, climate change and other regulatory issues, agriculture will have to make a strong case for policies that help farmers sell more of their products abroad and don't eat away at their profitability.
Democrats now hold larger majorities in the House and Senate. This can be good and bad. It eases the deadlock that has so often prevented Congress from getting things done, such as immigration reform. But this shift also will make it easier for the administration and Democrats in Congress to get their legislative initiatives passed without having to compromise with Republicans. In the Senate, at least, Democrats will be just shy of a filibuster-proof super-majority, and they will still need to reach across the aisle.
There's been a lot of talk about how historical this election is. As a result of the passage of Proposition 2 in California, egg production most likely will become history in that state.
The ballot initiative will have negative consequences for farmers and consumers alike. Egg farmers will go out of business. Consumers will get more eggs from hens that are at higher risk of contact with migratory and wild birds carrying diseases such as bird flu.
Well-financed animal rights groups succeeded by appealing to voters' emotions, rather than their good sense. Those same groups will try to replicate that success in other states, so if you haven't experienced it yet, look for a Prop 2-type attack on animal agriculture on a ballot near you.
But after two long years of campaign speeches, robo-calls, "My Friends" and "Looks," most of us are just glad it's all over. Now, it's time to get to work!
Lynne Finnerty is the editor of FBNews, an American Farm Bureau Federation publication.