I write from the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand. While I was eating kamura wedges and savoring corn fritters, the people of the US were deciding who would represent them in the halls of Congress. I placed my vote via absentee ballot just before I left.
These red-hot midterms sparked historic turnout. Over 114 million Americans cast their votes. Republicans will remain in control of the Senate in the next 116th Congress while the House will shift to Democratic leadership.
These changes will certainly lead to shifts in federal policymaking and could set the stage for friction between the two chambers as well as the executive branch.
How did Organic Champions Faire?
In the Senate, all organic champions that were up for reelection held highly competitive races. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) sailed to reelection. The Senate’s only organic farmer, Jon Tester (D-MT), won by less than 10,000 votes.
Senator Stabenow has delivered many wins for organic over the years and provided organic leadership in this year’s Senate version of the farm bill.
Senators Baldwin and Tester are the lead sponsors of legislation that would increase oversight of organic globally (The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act).
Senator Casey is the lead sponsor of legislation that more than doubles funding for organic research (The Organic Agriculture Research Act).
These two bills are top priorities for the Organic Trade Association in the Farm Bill, and they were both included in the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill.
In the House, most Democratic organic champions won reelection while Republican supporters of organic had a much tougher time, and a few lost their reelection bids.
The House has an Organic Caucus of over 60 members that focus on organic priorities. Most organic champions in the House Organic Caucus won reelection.
Organic Caucus Co-Chairs Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) were all reelected. Bruce Poliquin’s (R-ME) won the seat by 10 percentage points. Unfortunately, Rod Blum (R-IA) lost his reelection.
What is the future of a new Farm Bill?
The last Farm Bill expired on September 30th because of the major differences between the Senate and House versions.
Even though the conference committee leaders have been negotiating since last July, many differences will be difficult to reconcile. To get a final bill through both chambers, they’ll need to reach a deal soon, and there’s little sign they’re close to resolving some of the snarliest of sticking points.
One of those points is work requirements associated with SNAP (food stamps). This idea was widely rejected by House Democrats and the Senate in the previous negotiations.
Even larger rifts over the nutrition, conservation and commodity titles are still there as Congress returns to Washington.
The shift in leadership in the House will impact negotiations, so bipartisan support is a must if the House is going to pass a new Farm Bill.
In spite of all the changes this election brought, the focus must continue to be toward building bipartisan support for organic, educating the incoming freshman class on the economic benefits of organic and advocating for a farm bill to be signed into law before the end of the year.
This article is a synopsis of the Organic Association election debrief which is one benefit of being a member. The OTA has been one of the main players at the table in setting organic priorities in the Farm Bill.
If you want to learn more about the Organic Trade Association, please comment on this post.
Kia Ora for now!
I’ll tell you more about my New Zealand excursion in my next post.