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Post-Election Farm Bill Updates

To many producers and conservationists, the midterms were critical for more than the many social issues that have captivated the news for months, as Congress has struggled to pass a new Farm Bill and the FY 2019 appropriations bill. Both bills inform the agricultural agenda and programs across the states and will either need to be approved by the extended deadline of December 7th or taken on by the newly elected 116th Congress. With 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats up for election, the biggest shift occurred in the House of Representatives, with the Democratic party gaining majority control for the first time since 2008. This shift both ways reflects the divide that still exists along partisan values and may have implications in how these bills are adopted.

While the Senate only slightly wavered in favor to the already majority Republican party, it’s expected that their Agriculture Committee will remain focused on the same bipartisan spirit of the 115th Congress. However with the new majority shift in the House, it’s expected that Representative Collin Peterson (D-NM) will replace Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX) as the new chairman of their Agriculture Committee. With various other committee members not seeking reelection, or losing their races, we expect that the committee will lose 2 Republican and 3 Democratic seats, adding an estimated 7 new Democratic members to the committee.

The agricultural appropriations sub-committee saw the loss of Republican members to Democratic challengers, experiencing a similar shift in leadership as the House committee post-election. As we approach the extended deadline for the 2018 Farm Bill, many of its “tiny but mighty” programs remain in limbo. The current hyper-partisan House bill has been denounced by the Senate’s more bipartisan bill, leaving the big question with House Republican’s willingness to come to the table and negotiate. While there is a push to pass the Farm Bill by the extended December deadline, it still remains unclear if a deal will be made before then or if this new Congress will have to take it on in January of 2019.