Ag Races: Senate Control at Stake

Six US Senate Ag Races Include Georgia's Battleground Election

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Control of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday will come down to a handful of states. On the Senate Agriculture Committee, a few incumbents are in election battles. The election will decide who controls the committee gavel and purse strings for ag policy. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- One of the newest members of the Senate Agriculture Committee is in the middle of the most competitive U.S. Senate race in the country.

The 50-50 Senate could remain that way after Tuesday. Republicans have 21 held seats up for election, but the only listed "tossup" is the open Pennsylvania seat, according to Cook Political Report. Democrats have 14 seats to defend, but three tossups -- Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

The website, which uses models to forecast races, gives Republicans a slight edge to win the Senate. Either way, it's likely the Senate will be decided by a handful of states.

The outcome will decide who holds the gavel in the Senate Agriculture Committee, current Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., or current Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark.


GEORGIA: Sen. Raphael Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, joined the Ag Committee when he came into the Senate in early 2021 after a special election to fill out a term. Warnock pushed to relieve debt for Black farmers, though his first attempt was blocked by a lawsuit. He's also pushed for more access to credit and markets for minority farmers. Politico describes Warnock's race against Republican Herschel Walker as a "collision course in the most closely divided state of the 2020 presidential election." A football legend in Georgia, Walker's personal history has dominated the campaign coverage, but it's a 50/50 race.

COLORADO: Sen. Michael Bennet was able to help secure water and drought funding in the infrastructure bill last year for western states. Over the past year he's also tried to work with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who is also up for reelection, to get an agricultural immigration bill passed. That bill, which passed the House last year, might become one of the hottest agricultural topics in a lame-duck session. Bennet is favored to win a third full term with polls consistently showing him leading Republican Joe O'Dea, owner of a Colorado construction company.


ARKANSAS: Boozman, the committee ranking member, has worked closely with Stabenow in some areas, including on bills such as the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The former Razorbacks football player also has run blocking patterns this past Congress on cattle-market reform bills pushed by some of his colleagues, including several fellow GOP senators. Boozman would hold more hearings with USDA on spending he opposes if he takes the committee chair. His reelection to a third term is solid.

IOWA: Sen. Chuck Grassley's biggest foil on the Ag Committee has been over the past two years his own ranking member, Boozman, who has held Grassley's cattle-markets legislation push in check. Grassley is still a point man on anything biofuels related, and he was among the Republicans to vote for last year's infrastructure bill. A poll or two may indicate Grassley's race against Democrat former Navy Vice Admiral Mike Franken is close, but the 89-year-old Grassley is still considered likely to win his eighth Senate term.

NORTH DAKOTA: Sen. John Hoeven not only serves on the Ag Committee, he also is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees USDA, the FDA and related agencies. His influence over agricultural policy and the purse strings can't be overstated. The only real question here is whether Hoeven will hit 70% of the vote.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Sen. John Thune, the Senate Minority Whip, keeps close tabs on agricultural and biofuel issues. Thune has backed some of the cattle-market reform bills and he's pushed for bills this past year to prevent the Biden administration from imposing environmental regulations on agriculture, such as the SEC emissions rule. He's expected to win a fourth term.


All eyes will be on the open Pennsylvania race, as well as Arizona and Nevada where Democratic incumbents are locked in tossups.

KANSAS: Somehow GOP Sen. Jerry Moran isn't currently on the Agriculture Committee, but he feels like a defacto member. Moran does serve on the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee. He should easily win another Senate term.

MISSOURI: In a race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a fellow Republican, appears to hold a comfortable lead over Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, an heir to the St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch brewery. As Missouri becomes more Republican, Cook Political Report lists this race as a "solid R."

NORTH CAROLINA: In another open race to replace GOP Sen. Richard Burr, current U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a Republican, is favored over Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice. Budd grew up on a farm, but he was also attacked during the primary over his ties to a seed company, AgriBioTech Inc., that went bankrupt in 2000. Ted Budd's father was chairman and CEO of the company. The Budds had to pay a $15 million settlement after the bankruptcy trustee and creditors alleged assets had been moved from the company to the family. Ted Budd was a defendant in the civil case filed, according to a Washington Post article last year. Farmers and creditors received half of what they were owed from AgriBioTech. The Post article reported Ted Budd had started to work for his father's company about six months before the bankruptcy filing. Budd, despite some agricultural history, currently doesn't serve on the House Agriculture Committee.

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Chris Clayton