Commissioner Hugh Weathers: Mid-term Elections

Now that mid-term elections and change is upon us come the new year, South Carolina Commissioner Hugh Weathers is here to discuss the effects on agriculture, both in South Carolina and nationally.

SOUTH CAROLINA—

  • Gov. Henry McMaster is a friend to agriculture
  • Just recently as governor, he asked for $125 million in federal aid for agriculture after assessing damage from Hurricane Florence

NATIONAL—

  • The elections, giving Democrats control of the House beginning in January, could be the jolt that breaks the stalemate in Senate-House negotiations over the farm bill, headlined by the battle over food stamps. In any case, the farm bill was the only item on the agenda for food and ag groups in the lame-duck session.
  • Backed by President Trump, House Republicans pushed for stricter SNAP work requirements in the 2018 farm bill despite strong opposition from House Democrats and senators of both parties. The midterm elections on Tuesday effectively terminated the “welfare reform in the farm bill” proposal, although it has not been excised officially.
  • Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson was expected to become Agriculture chairman in January. Peterson, a fiscally conservative “blue dog” Democrat, told a Minnesota paper last week that he believed Republicans “will come around” on their farm bill goals. The House GOP would require “work-capable” adults ages 18 to 59 to work at least 20 hours a week or spend equivalent time in job training or workfare to qualify for food stamps. “The food stamp stuff, I told them four months ago this was not going to fly,” Peterson said.
  • As Agriculture chairman, Peterson could hold extensive “oversight” hearings into the operation of USDA programs. One farm lobbyist said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s plans to relocate two USDA research agencies could become a subject of congressional review.
  • If the farm bill isn’t enacted by the end of the year, Congress will be forced to pass an extension of the 2014 farm bill, handling the writing of a new farm bill to a Democratic House that would be more likely to adopt amendments tightening payment limits or eligibility rules for commodity programs and crop insurance.
  • House Democrats will have a hand in controlling the fate of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and any trade deals that follow.