Pundits have talked for months that Democrats face an uphill battle maintaining Congressional control heading into the Nov. 2 elections.
Republicans need the bare minimum 39 seats to regain power of the House. If they accomplish a wider swing of 50, 60 or even 70 new votes, it offers them substantially more power in overturning votes if needed.
The House Agriculture Committee chairman now is Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The ranking member is Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. Lucas has been very outspoken of the higher spending under the Obama administration and critical of cap and trade legislation and the Environmental Protection Agency's overarching attempt to regulate beyond their means and harm U.S. farmers.
A new University of Virginia analysis rates the following Democratic House Agriculture Committee Members, who are engaged in competitive races, in the following categories:
- Tim Holden, Pa., Vice Chairman
- Mike McIntyre, N.C
- Dennis A. Cardoza, Calif.
- Jim Costa, Calif.
- Leonard L. Boswell, Iowa
- Kurt Schrader, Ore.
- Bobby Bright, Ala.
- Betsy Markey, Colo
- Walt Minnick, Idaho
- Deborah L. Halvorson, Ill.
- Frank Kratovil, Md.
- Mark H. Schauer, Mich.
- Travis W. Childers, Miss.
- Earl Pomeroy, N.D.
- Larry Kissell, N.C.
- Scott Murphy, N.Y.
- Bill Owens, N.Y.
- John Boccieri, Ohio
- Kathleen A. Dahlkemper, Pa.
- Steve Kagen, Wis.
- Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, S.D
Leonard Boswell faces a challenging race in Iowa. He chairs the farm bill subcommittee and would bring implications on the shape of next farm bill if he were to lose. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota also sits on the House Ways and Means Committee which proved to be beneficial in the last farm bill writing with tight budgets.
On the Senate side of the equation, Republicans are poised to pick up anywhere from seven to ten new seats.
And although the Senate is likely to stay under Democrat control, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln is trailing her opponent by double-digits heading into Tuesday's election.
Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenowis seen as the front-runner to take over Lincoln's position, but that isn't a given. She’d be the panel’s fifth-most-senior Democrat if Lincoln loses. The four lawmakers in front of her already hold powerful committees that they’re unlikely to leave for the agriculture panel.
A Politico article noted that because Michigan isn’t your typical Big Ag state, some observers say Stabenow might face opposition from powerful industry lobbies. “There would probably be fear among some of the industry leaders of the cotton people and the wheat people and the barley people if they saw Stabenow take the helm,” said an industry source close to the committee, Politico reported.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson might win the post, one commentary said as a "consolation prize" for not switching parties and remaining on the Democratic ticket. Or Kent Conrad of North Dakota could abandon his budget chairmanship to take the helm.
Reeducating new members
"Regardless of what party ends up on top, the troubling thing is that we don't have longer tenure among members of the agriculture committees," states Mark Maslyn, executive director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Farm bills come up every four to five years. Only a few congressional members have been on the Ag Committee since the 1996 Farm Bill, and substantially more after the 2002 Farm Bill.
The swing seats in rural districts swing back and forth and create problems with members fully understanding how farm programs work and importance. "We're having to deal with so many issues in which the public doesn't understand agriculture. We rely on folks on the Ag Committees to work with urban colleagues. When you have turnover every couple of years you lose that perspective and knowledge," Maslyn adds.