Farm lobbies are in "uncharted waters" as they try to preserve subsidies in a new Farm Bill that will be on the agenda of the new Congress, veteran agricultural journalist Dan Morgan said during a webinar last week. "We really don’t know where all this is going," Morgan told the gathering sponsored by the Washington lobbying and law firm of McLeod, Watkinson & Miller.
He said the 83 freshmen senators and House members are "a different bunch of people from what we’re used to dealing with here in Washington."
Morgan, an independent journalist who once covered agriculture and Congress for The Washington Post
, said the movement that has dominated American politics for the last year and a half reminds him of an angry dog, and "there’s certainly a chance that the next person it bites could be the farm programs and agriculture," especially with many losses among the "agricrats," Democrats who strongly supported farm programs.
American Farm Bureau Federation
President Bob Stallman has said that creates "a huge hole," Morgan noted, "so the Farm Bureau plans to spend a lot of the next few months educating the new GOP members. And I guess the question I have is can they be educated? Are the gung-ho Tea Partiers going to sit still and see the blender tax credit for ethanol, which comes to about $6 billion a year, are they going to allow that to be extended?" A key player, Morgan said, will be Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is in line to become chairman of the House Budget Committee.
"I know the conventional wisdom is that the rural members always come around to supporting agriculture and farmers," Morgan said, but added, "Republicans took the House this time based on the energy of a grassroots movement that was, in many ways, a reaction against the GOP leadership and its spending, and the winners owe very little to House leaders and a great deal to money raised by outsiders." He said Rep. John Boehner of suburban Cincinnati "really owes his speakership, it seems to me, to outsiders, rather than outsiders owing their election to the speaker. And that, I think, is going to change the dynamic."
In the Senate, Morgan said, Republicans might be able to assemble the required 60 votes "to de-fund or block somehow the EPA
from regulating and providing permits to large emitters of carbon" and "blocking or slowing down the recently proposed requirements for a permit for point source discharges of pesticides. . . . There’s a lot of Democrats in farm states who don’t like the EPA and don’t like what they’re doing and are facing very tough elections."
Morgan also had some interesting things to say about Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, who is in line to head the House Agriculture Committee. Click here
for a transcript from FarmPolicy.com
of Morgan's discussion with David Graves of the American Association of Crop Insurers
and two members of the lobbying firm, trade expert Rick Pasco and Bill O’Conner, former chief Republican staffer on the House agriculture panel.