How will Ohio's vote affect agricultural issues?

By Matt Reese

How will Ohio's vote affect agricultural issues?

After the wild changes in Tuesday’s election, many Ohioans are left wondering how their new candidates will be able to shape important agricultural issues moving forward. Few places saw more of a wild swing towards Republicans than the state of Ohio, with John Kasich leading the way to beat Democrat Ted Strickland for Governor and Republicans dominating the list of winners in the Ohio Congress.

“Agriculture has a history of strong bipartisan support and I think we’ll continue to see that. We had some great folks elected and we lost some great folks on both sides of the aisle,” said Beth Vanderkooi, with Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) public policy. “In Ohio, 80% of the elections in the Ohio Senate 85% in the Ohio House were won by Farm Bureau’s ‘friends of agriculture.’”

Also of interest to Ohio Farm Bureau is the success of Bob Peterson and Bob Gibbs, both former presidents of the organization.

“We’re very proud of them,” Vanderkooi said. “We have a history of great legislators with an agricultural background in Ohio.”

The newly elected Ohio officials will have their hands full with some major issues.

“The biggest issue on the plate of the governor and General Assembly will be the budget,” Vanderkooi said. “By July 1 they’re going to have to pass some form of a balanced budget. It is estimated to be an $8.4 billion deficit. That is going to drive a lot of policy. Secondary to that is going to be job creation and then education.”

Nov. 2 was also a momentous day for Republicans around the country as they enjoyed great success at the Federal level and re-gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Most political pundits agree that the nation sent a clear message to its legislators that the current course of the federal government needs to be altered. Republican Rob Portman won George Voinovich’s vacated Senate seat and a number of new Republicans from Ohio will be going to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives to deal with a number of issues that will affect agriculture.

“There are some federal issues we are very concerned about,” said Adam Sharp, senior director of national policy and regulatory affairs for OFBF. “EPA rules on greenhouse gas, the clean water restoration legislation that was pending in Congress, atrazine re-review, food safety regulations — there are a number of these bills and regulations that would directly affect agriculture. We hope that what happened with the election will send a message that we would like to re-direct some of these regulatory issues. So many people are worried about the legislative side, but we also need to work on these regulatory issues. These are issues that Ohio farmers are concerned about.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau look forward to working with the new federal legislators as well on the important legislative issues.

“A new farm bill will be written by new agriculture committee members who may not be that familiar with farm policy. Farm Bureau will work with these committee members to help them understand the role of farm programs and develop a bill that provides an effective and responsive safety net for producers across the country,” said Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau president. “As businessmen and women, farmers and ranchers understand the need to foster economic growth and job creation. We will work closely with congressional members on tax issues, such as the estate tax and capital gains tax, as well as for common-sense solutions on environmental issues, like the Clean Water Act and greenhouse gas regulations. We will also work with Congress to change the outlook of trade opportunities by passing the stalled free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea.”

Many agricultural groups are broadly advocating for a smaller federal government that is regulating its way into more aspects of American life, including the Obama Administration’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

“Rural America spoke up and gave the boot to candidates putting big government before innovative cattlemen who manage to feed a growing population, stimulate the economy and create jobs without government handouts,” said Steve Foglesong, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “I hope the election results serve as a clue to the Obama Administration that it needs to pull this proposed [GIPSA] rule. We do not need big government telling us how to market our cattle.”

NCBA and the other national agricultural organizations are excited to begin work with the new legislators that were elected, and legislators in new positions. The new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will result in Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) being replaced as head of the House Agriculture Committee, likely by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) who is the current ranking member of the committee. A number of other House Agriculture Committee members lost their races, which will mean significant turnover. The shift in the House will also likely put Ohio agriculture advocate John Boehner in position as the speaker of the House. In addition, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) lost her seat. This puts Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in line to take over the chairmanship of the committee.

While agricultural groups are excited about working with the new Congress, they also recognize the importance of continuing to work with the current Congress on important issues.

“The 111th Congress still has important work to be done,” said Bart Schott, the president of the National Corn Growers Association. “When members return to Washington for the lame duck session, we hope they take quick action on the ethanol tax credit and support permanent estate tax relief.”

Other pressing issues during the lame duck session include the biodiesel tax credit and the estate tax.

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