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Working With a New Congress

Farm Groups Can Work With House Democrats on Some Issues, NCGA CEO Says

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Farmers remain strong Trump supporters in the election, as this barn along Interstate 80 in eastern Nebraska reflects. But farmers are going to have to work with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who will likely become speaker of the House for the second time. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

OMAHA (DTN) -- During the midterm campaign, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was portrayed as a villain in a lot of Midwest and rural congressional races. But the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association said Wednesday that Pelosi worked with agriculture on several major issues in her last stint as House speaker.

"The last time she was speaker, we got the '08 energy bill done, and the last time I talked to her about six months ago, she still refers to it as 'My RFS (Renewable Fuels Standard)," said Jon Doggett, a long-time government affairs leader at NCGA who was appointed CEO of the organization in September. Doggett added, "She is the strongest proponent of the RFS there is in the House of Representatives."

That may bode well for corn growers and ethanol groups looking to protect biofuel demand in the next few years. Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, is poised to become speaker for the second time when Democrats take control in January.

Doggett also pointed out Pelosi "broke arms" to drum up votes to overcome two presidential vetoes of the 2008 farm bill by then-President George W. Bush. After years of delay, Congress also passed a Water Resources Development Act under Pelosi's watch.

"She's not somebody we can't work with," Doggett said of Pelosi. "Our folks may not like her on a lot of things around guns and other things, but when it comes to ag issues, we've always had a fair shake from her."

Working on some of these issues may require casting them in an environmental light under a new Democratic House, but Doggett said NCGA has come a long way in the last decade, working on topics and groups such as NCGA's Soil Health Partnership, a climate change task force and emphasis on sustainability.

"That's what we have been doing for the past year or so is talking to Democrats in the House of Representatives on these issues we've been working on," Doggett said.

Doggett noted that among the Democratic priorities is infrastructure, and he sees that as another area where farmers would likely want to bring ideas to the table to improve roads, bridges, waterways and rural broadband.

"Certainly, we can work with them on infrastructure, so there is some potential there working on things like locks and dams, roads and bridges," Doggett said.

The problem may be reconciling the House and the Senate, along with what the Trump administration wants to accomplish, Doggett noted. In the lame-duck session, Congress will still have funding bills to pass for at least seven departments or agencies, as well as resolve how much funds to spend on a border wall. "I think the tone gets set as soon as Congress gets back to town," he said.

Some Democrats elected to the House this week campaigned insisting they would not vote for Pelosi as speaker. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., dismissed those statements Wednesday, noting Pelosi has the support of much of the Democratic caucus who stuck with her as minority leader.

RACES STILL OUT

As ballot counting continued Wednesday, Democrats in the House had picked up 27 seats and were sitting at 222 seats to 196 for Republicans. There were still 17 House races that were not called with Republicans holding leads in 11 of those races and Democrats holding the lead in six races.

In the Senate, Republicans were looking at a minimum 51-46 advantage and were leading in two other uncalled races in Arizona and Florida. Early Wednesday afternoon, the Montana Senate race was called in favor of incumbent Democrat Jon Tester. Republicans held on to key Senate seats and even made some pickups by knocking off Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.

A Mississippi Senate race will go to a runoff election later this month.

The outcome results in a divided federal government, as Democrats would control legislation in the House, including oversight power over President Donald Trump and his administration. Still, the split also likely halts the president's legislative agenda and will also create more gridlock between the House, the Senate and the White House over budgets and spending during the next two years.

In some key governor races, Democrats gained seven gubernatorial seats on Tuesday, but Florida was called for Republicans on Wednesday and the GOP also was leading in Georgia. Democrats won in Republican-held states Kansas and Wisconsin. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat and member of the House Agriculture Committee, won Minnesota governor's race. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, won the governorship of New Mexico. Michigan and Illinois were called as governor's seats that flipped from GOP to Democratic. Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican and former Ag Committee member, won the South Dakota governor's race.

Democrats won House seats in some Midwest and Plains states typically considered reliably Republican areas.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(ES/AG)

Chris Clayton

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