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New Ag Political Climate for 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 17 November 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #33
For cattlemen who favor a conservative, small government, free-market approach to politics and the economy, the recent elections shifted the Washington game. Beginning in January, the offense is out and the defense is in - at least for two years.

The 2007 Farm Bill hearings were going to be different anyway, with new considerations and new activists. Now, a new party will set the agenda, more receptive to populist, anti-business, restrictive "solutions." The Senate Ag Committee will likely be chaired by Iowa's Thomas Harkin, a populist. Packer concentration, captive supply, contracting and packer ownership can be expected to get special attention.

Minnesota's Collin Peterson will likely chair the House Ag Committee. The Democrats have encouraged or themselves voiced opinions on what is bad: big business, non-unionized labor, trade and business growth or profit. They see the small-farm model of pre-WW I as the farm solution and a "healthier" food supply.

One of Peterson's Web sites touted him as the "Farmer-Labor" candidate. Peterson and Pelosi toured Minnesota alternative-energy facilities, concluding with a Farmers Union reception. A trade story on Peterson's Web site blames the drop in farm exports in 2005 on NAFTA and CAFTA, with nary a mention of BSE and the beef export cutoff. It claims CAFTA will result in virtually no beef sales.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Az.) opined in a Wall Street Journal editorial ("Minority Report," 11/10/06) why Republicans were "beaten like a rented mule." Listing taxes and spending as key, Flake gave the Farm Bill as the best example of where the Republican majority had erred. He reminded everyone that the 1996 "Freedom to Farm Act" was to phase out farm subsidies, but was repealed in 2002 and "in its place installed the `Farm Security Act' - those who value the adage about trading freedom for security can pause and shudder here - with even more lavish subsidies.

"Now ...we have to decide whether we will up the ante with Democrats in terms of red state/blue state politics in the Heartland, or whether we believe our own rhetoric about free markets." Besides fiscal implications, "Most notably, it will determine if we are serious about the future of free trade," Flake said.

New people will set the Congressional committee agendas and tone. With the offense out, fixing past bad legislation or getting new free-market legislation is unlikely. Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform is likely dead. Besides the party change, ESA reform's chief House advocate, California's Richard Pombo lost re-election. Death tax abolition is probably dead, too, to pun a phrase. The Democrats see assets as a redistribution opportunity. The best hope is a higher exemption for some degree of relief for agriculture and small business. As Michael Reagan said on a television business show, the real question is what the Democrats' definition of rich will be - as in "tax the rich to give to the poor."

Recently, the Senate was willing to sacrifice even a higher minimum wage in order to stop death tax abolition.

The defense is now in the game.

On environmental issues, attempts to exempt manure from the Superfund law, unless the lame duck Congress acts, are unlikely to move. Efforts to tighten environmental restrictions are more likely.

Organic and natural approaches to food production will be more favorably received. This could mean more lenient production regulations; startup subsidies; general subsidies; or increased funding for research on organic marketing, nutrition and health. Will the contradiction of vision - utopian small organic farms - and the reality - large-scale organic farms producing to meet national demand - be acknowledged or ignored?

Animal activists succeeded in Arizona, previewing national efforts regarding horse slaughter and animal production restrictions. Their Washington reception will be warmer.

A minimum wage increase is likely, putting pressures on low margin fast-food chains and restaurants to raise prices, dampening beef demand.

Saving graces? President Bush could find his lost veto pen, saving the economy and taxpayers. Nine states passed measures providing additional private property protection from eminent domain.

With luck, ancient McGovern's rambles will be about war and peace and not agriculture and nutrition. Government nannies are horrific enough. We don't need a Senate Select Committee on Human Nutrition Mummy!

Fall AFF 2nd Anniversary & Beyond Fund Drive.

We need your check today or your visit to our website where you can use a credit card to make your contribution during our fund drive. If you prefer, send your check, made out to Agribusiness Freedom Foundation, to your state affiliate office or us at the address at the bottom of this newsletter. We are heading into a Farm Bill debate which could shape the future of cattle and beef marketing, industry structure and world trade for decades. Please join with us and help make sure our independent voice is there.

To everyone who contributes the suggested minimum amount, as a "thank you" gift, AFF will send a copy of Riding for the Brand, a terrific novel that paints the picture of what the beef industry could be like in 25 years - or sooner. Author Jim Whitt's short, entertaining book shows how real cowboys could get there.

The recent elections have made the road ahead more challenging than ever. Please help us preserve your freedom to innovate and adapt to the 21st century consumer. Thank you.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 15 December 2006 )
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