What Agriculture Will Be Watching on Election Day

Election Day 2014: Agriculture vote will be key in deciding who takes over the Senate control and GMO issues are on ballots in three states.

This isn’t a presidential election year, which could bring about a smaller turnout, but every national House race is up for reelection and the Senate has a handful of races that could swing the pendulum of power in the Senate.

Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, shared (listen to audio) that top-of-mind ag issues could be acted on including a vote prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward on implementing its waters of the U.S. rule and its tax extenders package. Both were sent to the Senate but died with Democrats being unwilling to take up either. Woodall said these are major issues that the Senate needs to engage in.

Six states will determine whether the Senate could switch to Republican control, and no seat is safe, he added.

For instance in Kansas, Sen. Pat Roberts, R, who has spent decades in Washington, D.C. in both the House and Senate, has found himself fighting for his political life. He voted against the farm bill this year, but is in line to likely be the next Senate Agriculture Committee chairman if Republicans regain control of the Chamber. He’s being challenged by independent Greg Orman, who has campaigned that Roberts is out of touch with Kansas.

In Iowa, a long-time seat held by Sen. Tom Harkin is one being sought by Republican Joni Ernst and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley who’s served in the House of Representatives. Ernst grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa, and even went so far as to run a commercial touting her knowledge of hog castration (which may have backfired at the time.) Now her fans yell, “Make ‘em squeal, Joni!”

Woodall said the most important thing is to make sure folks get out and vote. “We need to make sure voter apathy is not the cause of changes in the Senate that would be detrimental to us as producers,” he said.

GMO initiatives

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

Colorado’s GMO labeling 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 GMO labeling 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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