By Jerry Slominski, IDFA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Economic Policy
This week 96 new members were sworn into the House of Representatives, 87 Republicans and 9 Democrats. The Senate will have 16 new members, 13 Republicans and three Democrats.
It is a common saying that elections have consequences, and the Republican wave this past November will surely have consequences for the dairy industry. Because a large number of the new legislators are from rural areas, many dairy-producing regions now have new representation in Washington.
Although the delegation from our largest dairy state, California, remains much the same, nearly every other top dairy state witnessed a significant shift from Democratic to Republican representation.
On the East Coast, Pennsylvania elected a Republican Senator to replace a Democrat as well as five new Republican congressmen. New York saw its Republican delegation increase from two to eight.
Across the Midwest dairy states, four Democratic senators were replaced by Republicans.
Wisconsin, for example, elected a new Republican senator as well as two new Republican Congressmen.
Out West, several dairy areas also switched to the Republicans. Eastern Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, Western Idaho, South Dakota, Southern Washington and Central Arizona come to mind.
On the House Agriculture Committee, 15 Democrats lost their jobs and have been replaced with Republicans. And, while the generals often remain after the troops have been replaced, that will not be the case this year. Republican Frank Lucas of Oklahoma now leads the House Agriculture Committee and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow is the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
I'm not going very far out on a limb to predict that these new representatives will rely more on free markets in their approach to issues, will be more open to free trade agreements and will be less likely to see new programs or regulations as a solution to our nation's problems.
These changes in Congress come at a critical time for the dairy industry and will surely have an impact on the upcoming farm bill.
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