Democrats May Take Ag Policy in New Directions

The new Democratic House of Representatives will take stances contrary to Bush and Johanns on some critical issues.

With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives - and potentially Senate as well - Congress' agricultural policy priorities may shift somewhat. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., will be chairman of the Agriculture Committee, in which Republicans still outnumber Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., will be the next Speaker of the House.

The Bush administration and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns have criticized the 2002 farm bill, encouraging sweeping changes in the next version. Peterson, however, lines up with many farm groups in supporting an extension of the current farm bill rather than a rewrite. Pelosi drew criticism for voting against the 2002 farm bill, but voted in favor of the Agricultural Act a year earlier, a bill which also made provisions for the continuation of direct payments.

An emergency disaster farm aid bill should have a good chance of passing in the House. Peterson, Pelosi, and Democrats overwhelmingly supported recent failed attempts to pass emergency disaster aid. Johanns criticized the bill for not providing money to those who need it most, and only two House Republicans voted in favor.

Pelosi has also outlined goals to "fight for energy independence by investing in the Midwest, not the Middle East," by cutting subsidies for oil companies and promoting American-made biofuels.

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