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2010 Midterm Election Results: What Does It Mean For Food Policy

The 2010 Midterm Elections and Food Policy: What Will Change?

It's undeniable that the 2010 midterm elections results will affect the course of current public policy. In particular, an attitude shift about the importance of environmental issues, food politics, and the size of government will directly affect current food legislation and may cause environmental and conservation setbacks.

Here are some issues to watch in upcoming food policy:

Big Agriculture

Congress is full of power struggles as politicians fill recently vacated seats left by congress members who lost their reelections. Most notably, Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), the Senate Committee chair and Big Ag supporter, lost reelection and two candidates are vying for her vacated chair.

The first contender, Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), represents a state that relies heavily on its industrial agriculture and has a history of creating legislation that appeases Big Ag lobbyists. The second, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), also comes from an agriculturally rich state, but since Michigan produces fruit and vegetables instead of the meat, corn, and soy staples of Big Ag, she supports shifting resources to conservation programs.

President Obama declared that he will double U.S. agricultural exports within five years. This measure has received bipartisan support, but it may also bolster grain and meat giants (like ADM, Cargill, Tyson, and Smithfield) at the cost of destructive industrial farming in the U.S. However, with an increased number of Big Ag supporters now represented in Congress, it is doubtful that conservation efforts and support for small farmers will increase.

Changes In The EPA's And FDA's Legal Power

Due to recent outbreaks of food-related diseases in everything from meat to produce, the Food Safety Modernization Act bill has been introduced in Congress. After it was passed by the House it has stalled in the Senate because of uncertainties about its level of power.

The House-passed legislation requires all farms to enact hazard control plans and enforce tough safety and sanitary provisions. It also gives the FDA increased power to inspect food producers without court permission and declare food emergencies and recalls.

Small farmers worry that the FDA will continue its history of targeting smaller (and easier to handle) farms while allowing the large food producers to jump through loop holes.

Denial About Climate Change

No other conservative party in the Western world harbors as strong of an anti-climate change opinion as America's GOP. For instance, Britain's Conservative Party, German's Christian Democratic Union, and France's Conservative party all acknowledge the scientific data supporting the real threat of climate change, but most Republicans (especially those that lean far Right) are aggressively in denial.

As reported by the National Journal:

Of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers who have taken a position, 19 have declared that the science of climate change is inconclusive or flat-out incorrect.

This attitude can be disastrous for food and environmental politics. As one of the world's leading countries for consumption and pollution, American environmental policies will greatly affect the impact of environmental conservation efforts world wide.

It's difficult to say where this anger towards conservation originated, but its roots may lie in pressure from states that have many heavy emission industries such as oil and coal, influence from well-funded lobbyists, an anti-government sentiment, and inflammatory and sensational skepticism from far right media. Perhaps the strongest influence that causes so many Americans to ignore scientific proof of human-caused climate change is denial and depression over the amount of work that true environmental reform will require.

Other Hot Issues

- Bills to protect the oceans and the newly established Ocean Council may receive less resources and support.

- The Obama administration's push for cap and trade legislation will give way to increased initiatives for domestic energy like oil and "clean" coal.

Read More:

  • What the midterms mean for federal ag-policy reform (Grist)
  • Election 2010: What it means for climate, clean energy & green (Treehugger)
  • GOP Gives Climate Science A Cold Shoulder (National Journal)
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