Nov 07, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC -- Most midterm elections results are in and the for-sure case is that Democrats have taken control of the House and Republicans solidified their hold of the Senate. Democrats in the House gained 27 seats as of press time with 17 races yet to be called. Senate Republicans picked up two seats out of 32, with three races still to be called.
Most rice state/district incumbents held on to their seats and will return to Congress. Exceptions include Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) who lost to Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. A runoff election in Mississippi between incumbent Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D), a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, will take place on November 27. In terms of House races, the only rice district 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).
The change in House leadership for the 116th Congress, which convenes in January, is sure to continue to keep things in Washington interesting. It’s widely reported that current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will again be Speaker of the House, however, there is no guarantee. House Democrats will soon hold leadership elections and Pelosi could face a challenger vying for the most powerful position in the chamber. It’s also widely reported that current Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is likely to become the Minority Leader since current House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is retiring, though McCarthy could face a challenger as well.
If Pelosi becomes Speaker, she has publicly stated several times that shake-ups to committee leadership is not one of her goals, meaning that current House Committee Ranking Members will presumably take over as chairs. In the case of the House Agriculture Committee, Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) will take over the gavel and again become chairman. House Agriculture Subcommittee leadership could fall to the current ranking members: Rep. David Scott (D-GA), Commodity, Exchanges, Energy and Credit; Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Conservation and Forestry; Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Nutrition; and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. The two unknowns would be the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee and the Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee as both ranking members, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), respectively, are leaving Congress at the end of the current session.
In the Senate it’s expected Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will keep the head post for the majority and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will remain Minority Leader. A new majority whip will be elected by Republicans as current Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) is term-limited and must vacate the seat. Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) was not up for reelection this cycle and should remain at the head of the committee. Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) won her re-election and will likely keep her post, as well.
The outcome of this election will have an impact on USA Rice’s legislative priorities, from the Farm Bill to trade.
The 2014 Farm Bill expired on September 30. Now that there is a lame duck 115th Congress, 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, then 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.
While it’s likely that the Senate bill wouldn’t look much different than the bill passed in June of this year, with Republicans maintaining the majority, a bill out of the House with a Democratic majority has the potential to be drastically different. Rep. Peterson, 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.
In terms of trade, barriers could compromise Congress’ approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), NAFTA’s proposed replacement, due to Democratic concerns with the agreement not containing more enforceable labor standards and environmental protections.
Brokering any legislative win for U.S. trade with Cuba is now also up in the air as Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who secured an amendment in the Senate version of the Farm Bill to allow for agriculture trade promotion program dollars to be used in Cuba, lost her bid for re-election. It’s yet to be seen if this amendment will be included in the conference report.