Farm Groups Assess Top Issues For Obama, New Congress

The nation's two major general farm organizations speak out on Tuesday night's victory by President-elect Barack Obama.

Published on: Nov 5, 2008

National Farmers Union President Tom Buis hosted a teleconference Wednesday with farm media to discuss Tuesday's election results. After congratulating Barack Obama on winning the election, Buis said now partisanship must be set aside and leaders come together to govern and meet the many challenges that we are facing. He cited a speech Obama made last month in which he said America's farmers are it's future as an example that the new President-electdoes want to work with rural America and address these issues.

"We are certainly going to have them," Buis said. "They are going to have to hit the ground running on the economy, and certainly on some other issues. Primarily the implementation of the Farm Bill as well as what to do about the commodity futures markets regulation and the lack thereof; putting transparency back into those marketplaces as well as renewable energy. I think the President-elect has made it real clear that they are not going to backslide."

Another issue that was discussed was the makeup of the agriculture committees in both chambers of Congress. Although Chairmen Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa were easily reelected there will be a different look to the committees. Several members of the House Agriculture Committee were not reelected and much uncertainty remains when looking at the Senate Agriculture Committee. It's still not clear whether ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., garnered a majority of votes or if he will have to participate in a runoff in December. Senator Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was in such a close race that a recount is virtually certain.

Buis said the time is ripe to call a national agricultural summit. Recalling a similar event in the late 1990's that created a national conversation for production agriculture, Buis said he planned to seek support for another such event in the prelude to the Obama Administration. Buis, an Obama supporter who has been mentioned as a possible choice for Agriculture Secretary, said he was not seeking the post, but if asked by the President would be open to considering it.

American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman has a press conference planned for Thursday to discuss the outlook for agricultural issues in the new administration and Congress.

Wednesday he issued a statement congratulating Obama and the members who will serve in the 111th Congress. He said the Farm Bureau's issues included the economy, energy, immigration, trade, implementation of the farm bill and many others.

"We know there are many points of views on these issues, but we also know that our elected leaders have one thing in common: each person elected to office ran for office to improve this country," Stallman said. "We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to create those opportunities that will improve agriculture and rural America."