Election Day impacts agriculture priorities

Trade biggest winner if Senate control goes back to Republicans and GMOs on today's ballot in states.

Open Senate races that will be decided today hold the balance of power for Republicans and Democrats and could end up having a lasting impact on what those in agriculture see accomplished in the next two years.

Heading into today, the New York Times and the Washington Post give an 80-95% chance the Senate will flip, and it’s becoming increasingly assumed that the Democrats will lose power. There are 8-9 open seats that remain up for grabs.

Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Policy Directions, laid out that Senate races for Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska), Georgia (open); Iowa (open); Sen. Pat Roberts, (R., Kan.); Sen. Mitch McConnell,( R., Kent.); Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D., La.); (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen ( D., N.H.); and Sen. Kay Hagan, (D., N.C.), have narrowed to just a few points, with Kansas considered a dead heat. Late this week, the Arkansas Senate race of Democrat Sen. David Pryor was shifted from the “toss-up” column to “leans Republican” by most analysts.

If Republicans control the House and the Senate the biggest important item of business that could see its way to the President’s desk is trade legislation, most importantly Trade Promotion Authority, explained Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “There will be a stalemate on anything else somewhat controversial,” Johnson said.

Chandler Goule, NFU vice president of government relations, added that TPA which gives the President negotiating power and Congress an up or down vote on trade votes, could be provided for just two years rather than five to help usher through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe.

If the Senate chamber flips, Goule expects the President will most likely get TPA “at some cost.”

Goule added if TPP doesn’t get done, TTIP with Europe is never going to take off. In addition, the cookie cutter trade policy that the U.S. has worked in its other trade negotiations won’t work with Europe. Goule expects talks will hinge on more than just market access but require new approaches to production practices including antibiotics, animal welfare and biotech.

But if you think everything will be known the morning of Nov. 5, don’t hold your breath. Kopperud explained that three factors interfere. “First, Alaskan vote counts from the most rural one-third of the state can take one or two weeks to be completed; second, Louisiana requires a candidate to get 50% plus one vote, or a runoff will be held December 4, and in Georgia, a similar 50%-plus-one rule applies or a January 6, 2015, runoff is held,” he said.

GMO votes

Voters across Colorado and Oregon and in Maui County, Hawaii, will weigh in on biotech-related ballot measures at the polls today. Colorado and Oregon will consider labeling measures, while Maui County voters will face a proposal to adopt a moratorium on the use of GMO seeds.

Colorado’s Proposition 105 asserts that “consumers have the right to know if the food they are consuming has been genetically modified.” If approved, any genetically modified foods would be required to be labeled “Produced With Genetic Engineering” starting on July 1, 2016. Animal feed, meat from animals that ate genetically modified foods, alcoholic beverages and medically prescribed foods would be among the products exempted from the labeling law.  

Oregon’s GMO labeling initiative, Measure 9, would require, beginning Jan. 1, 2016, all raw food and packaged food that is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering must be labeled as such and is otherwise misbranded if that fact is not disclosed.  

Voters in California and Washington rejected similar ballot initiatives in 2012 and 2013, respectively.   

In Maui County, voters will decide whether to adopt a “Moratorium of the Cultivation of Genetically Engineered Organisms,” affecting two local biotech seed farms.

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