Farm Progress

Critical agriculture issues will face the next Congress

Clinton, Rubio likely candidatesAg issues targets for next CongressLabel initiatives designed to eliminate GMOs

Ron Smith 1

December 16, 2015

3 Min Read
<p>Protection for weather damage may be jeopardized if Congress alters the crop insurance program included in the Agriculture Act of 2014.</p>

Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, and George Pataki have “no chance,” of earning their party’s nomination for president of the United States.

That’s the prediction of Scott Kuschmider, government affairs communication director for Monsanto, who further says Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz are “wild cards,” while Hilary Clinton and Marco Rubio are “in great shape.” And he says, despite Senator Cruz’s recent poll upticks, he is not popular within his own party establishment.

“Rubio checks all the electability boxes,” for Republicans, Kuschmider said during the business session of Deltapine’s annual New Product Evaluator (NPE) Summit in San Antonio, attended by 140 NPE growers from across the cotton belt, who were first to hear updates on the four new Deltapine varieties to be released for 2016.

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Presidential nomination aside, he notes that 34 Senate seats will be contested, along with all 435 House seats, and says the 2016 elections will be important for agriculture. Several key issues, including crop insurance, are likely to face scrutiny.

“A presidential election year is different,” Kuschmider says. “For six straight presidential elections, 18 states have voted for Democrats.”

He says candidates’ complaints about debates taking them into what may be unfamiliar territory shows a lack of understanding about presidential politics. “A presidential candidate must be flexible, and able to speak on issues that arise.”

PRESSURE ON CROP INSURANCE

He expects to see continued pressure on crop insurance subsidies in coming months, and with the next Congress. “We will likely also face pressure on agriculture spending and the costs of ARC and PLC.”

The recently-passed highway bill included language to restore the crop insurance subsidy that was part of the Agriculture Act of 2014, but may not be the end of the battle, Kuschmider says.

Food labeling initiatives represent attempts to do more than identify products containing genetically engineered crops, he says. “The people who are pushing labeling want GMO products off the market. Access to technology is a big issue. If we lose GMOs, what’s next?” A labeling bill that would supersede state labeling initiatives has passed the House and “needs 60 votes in the Senate. That could be introduced after Labor Day.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact also will be scrutinized in the coming months and may not be decided until a new administration is in office, Kuschmider says. It could be approved in a lame duck session, but will “probably go to the next administration — I don’t think it can pass now.”

Waters of the United States, he says, “will be in the courts, but which one? This is a confusing legal issue. The ethanol battle continues and will be a driving issue for agriculture.”

Kuschmider reminded the NPE audience that because 2016 is a presidential election year, “not much will be done” by Congress.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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