What do the Recent Elections Mean for Agriculture?

  • On November 12, 2020

ASTA is gearing up for a busy 2021! With changes coming to Washington, D.C., we’ll be hitting the ground running in January as we work to build relationships with new Members of Congress and staff, as well as the administration, to ensure the seed industry continues to have a strong unified voice and representation at the federal level. Even though most of the election results are in, big questions remain about who will lead the Senate and House Ag Committees.

As of the finalization of this newsletter, former Vice President Joe Biden is being referred to as the President-Elect following an incredibly long week of ballot counting and recounting. As a result, thousands of key leadership positions will need to be filled at USDA, USTR, EPA, FDA and other departments and agencies with a direct impact on the seed industry.

In Congress, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), House Agriculture Committee Chairman, lost to Michelle Fischbach (R) after serving Minnesota’s 7th district for 30 years. In TX-11, the Former Agriculture Committee Chairman, Mike Conaway, retired after eight terms. The seat will be filled by Austin Pfluger (R). Peterson and Conaway both contributed to several decades of farm policy as a chairmen and ranking members, leaving behind big shoes to fill. With Conaway and Peterson gone, the house must fill the minority and majority leadership positions in the ag committee. David Scott (D-GA) and Jim Costa (D-CA) have both announced their bid to be the next chairman of the ag committee. All eyes are on Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Glenn Thompson (R-PA) to become the next ranking member.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) retires at the end of this Congressional session, having served 40 years in the U.S. Congress – 16 years in the House and 24 years in the Senate. He is the first member of Congress to serve as Chair of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. He has been an icon for American agriculture and will be sorely missed as we look to work on the next Farm Bill reauthorization. Chairman Roberts will be replaced by Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS).

At this time, it appears that Senator John Boozman (R-AR) will be the Chair and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) could maintain her position, depending on the runoff of two Senate seats in Georgia. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has secured reelection.

Senate Ag Committee members Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Cindy Hyde Smith (R-MS) held on to their seats, while Martha McSally (R-AZ) lost to Mark Kelly (D-AZ). You can expect familiar faces in at least one key committee. Current appropriation committee members Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), McConnell (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cindy Hyde Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Reed (D-RI), and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) were all reelected.

At the state level, only 11 states voted for governors this year. Democratic candidates John Carney Jr. (DE), Roy Cooper (NC) and Jay Inslee (WA) prevailed. On the other side, republican candidates Eric Holcomb (IN), Mike Parson (MO), Greg Giangorte (MT), Chris Sununu (NH), Doug Burgum (ND), Spencer Cox (UT). Phil Scott (CVT) and Jim Justice (WV) were also elected. Notably, democratic incumbent Steve Bullock (MT) was voted out. State commissioners/secretaries of agriculture are appointed by governors in 38 states. Of these states, only Montana has a new governor to appoint the agriculture official. Steve Troxler (R-NC) and Kent Leonhardt (R-WV) were the only two elected commissioners of agriculture.