Election results leave House Ag Committee unchanged

Nov 9, 2012

The presidential and congressional elections remained relatively unchanged in D.C. following last week’s elections, including the members of the House Agriculture Committee. Republicans continue to maintain the House majority and the Democrats have maintained control of the Senate. But the general outcome of the election shows the U.S. residents are split, with the final margin between the two presidential candidates coming down to just a few percent in the popular vote.

The two presidential candidates skimmed over most of the agricultural topics during their campaigns, but some congressional candidates took a different route.

The failure of the House passing a farm bill was a popular topic in most Midwestern state congressional races, helping some and hurting others.

In Iowa, Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell lost his re-election bid to Republican Tom Latham, and incumbent Republican Steve King held off Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack in two hotly contested races.

Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, held onto her seat and, with Democrats still holding the Senate majority, also her seat as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Other Democrat Senate Ag Committee members who kept their seats were Bob Casey, Jr., D-PA, and Sherrod Brown, D-OH.

Democrat Heidi Heitcamp won the North Dakota Senate seat by a small margin in the heavily Republican state.

Republican Deb Fischer also won a Senate seat over Democrat Bob Kerrey in Nebraska.

Montana’s Democratic incumbent, Jon Tester, held onto his Senate seat despite an expensive campaign to unseat him by Republican House Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Democrat incumbent Claire Mc- Caskill, D-MO, beat Republican contender Todd Akin, whose controversial statements about rape lost him the financial backing of his party back in August.

Democrat Joe Donnelly won over Republican candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Mourdock also had some controversial airtime relating to his abortion views.

The traditionally Republican state of Indiana voted its first Democrat senator since 2004 into a seat vacated by Richard Lugar, R-IN, a former member of the Senate Ag Committee.

The makeup of the 45-member House Agriculture Committee changed very little, as most committee members held their seats, according to DTN reports.

Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-OK, and Vice Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, both won re-election, as did minority ranking member Collin Peterson, D- MN.

On the Democratic side, the seat previously held by Rep. Tim Holden, D-PA, was won by Matt Cartwright, keeping the seat in Democratic hands.

Committee member Joe Baca, D-CA, was defeated by Republican Gloria Negrete- McLeod, a former California state senator.

In Ohio, a seat formerly held by Republican Jean Schmidt was won by fellow Republican Brad Wenstrup, who defeated Schmidt in the primary.

Just two other members of the ag committee lost their seats in this election.

Republican Richard Hudson defeated Democrat Larry Kissell in North Carolina’s eighth district, while Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos defeated Republican Robert T. Schilling.

In all, 32 ag committee members won re-election.

That includes Republicans Kristi Noem, South Dakota; Vicky Hartzler, Missouri; Randy Hultgren, Illinois; Christopher P. Gibson, New York; Renee L. Ellmers, North Carolina; Tim Huelskamp, Kansas; Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee; Rick Crawford, Arkansas; Martha Roby, Alabama; Steve Souther land, Florida; Scott R. Tipton, Colorado; Bob Gibbs, Ohio; Austin Scott, Georgia; Marlin Stutzman, Indiana; Thomas J. Rooney, Florida; Glenn Thompson, Pennsylvania; Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska; K. Michael Conaway, Texas; and Randy Neugebauer, Texas.

While the unknowns remain relating to the final outcomes, including the future of the farm bill, there were a few failed ag related ballot measures that garnered national attention.

Proposition 37 in California was probably one of the most controversial and would have required labeling of genetically modified organism foods. The measure lost by 53 to 47 percent.

Despite its defeat, proponents of labeling genetically engineered foods vowed to press ahead for tougher regulation. Claims have come out that $46 million in campaign contributions from large agriculture companies fueled the downward spiral of the measure.

Opponents successfully argued that Proposition 37 was expensive, bureaucratic and full of illogical loopholes for certain foods, such as meat, dairy products, eggs and alcoholic beverages.

But Proposition 37 co- Chairman Dave Murphy said in a conference call that millions of Californians supported the measure and plan to continue the push for labeling.

Arizona’s Proposition 120 was rejected, to most producers’ relief.

The measure would have amended the Arizona Constitution to say that the state “declares its sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries.”

The proposition didn’t cover Native American reservations, national parks and military installations.

Supporters said the change would have put Arizona in charge of managing logging and thinning to prevent catastrophes such as the 2011 Wallow Fire.

Rep. Chester Crandell, R- Heber, who led the push, said he was disappointed with the result but has some ideas to bring more property underneath Arizona’s control, boosting the state’s economic security, when the legislature comes back into session.

Opponents said Arizona is in no position to manage forests and other resources now controlled by the federal government.

Another closely watched state ballot issue that failed was Measure 5 in North Dakota, a proposal to toughen the state’s animal cruelty laws.

If approved, it would have made animal cruelty a felony.

Opponents, including most of the state’s agriculture and livestock groups, say the initiative is poorly worded, by design, to give animal rights groups a foothold in North Dakota so they can make more sweeping changes later. And they argue that passage of Measure 5 would lessen chances for more comprehensive animal protection legislation in the 2013 legislature.

Proponents, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), say North Dakota has weak animal cruelty laws and it’s time to address the issue.

The defeat was considered “an incredible blow” to the animal rights agenda of HSUS, according to the chairman of the Missouri Farmers Care Coalition.

Voters defeated Measure Five 66 percent to 34 percent. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor