2012 Elections —
President: More than 120.8 million Americans voted for President in this election. With respect to the popular vote, President Obama received only 3.3 million votes (2.7%) more than Romney, which showed once again how divided our nation is when choosing its leader. What surprises many people is that of the 538 electoral votes, the President received 332 votes (62%) vs. Romney’s 206 votes (38%).
What is also interesting is the number of counties that were carried by Obama and Romney. There are 3,033 counties in the U.S. The President won in fewer than 750 (24.7%) and Romney won more than 2,283 counties (75.3%). The bottom line is that land does not vote — people do. Democrats prevailed in the urban areas in key states.
While his win is a result of a brilliant campaign strategy, the President knows that he must lead a politically divided nation.
There are various benefits to an incumbent being re-elected. Months are saved from one administration transitioning to another, and it allows them to focus on the pressing issues faced by our nation. While new cabinet members will be replaced and new priorities set, it comes with much less disruption than a change in presidents.
For the record, the USDA (sugar program administration, biotechnology, crop insurance, etc.) and the Trade Representative’s office have worked extremely well with our industry over the last four years, and we look forward to working with them over the next four years.
Senate: The Democrats and two Independents picked up Indiana and Massachusetts, making it 55D-45R. We expect Chairwoman Stabenow from Michigan and Ranking Member Roberts from Kansas to continue to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee. We are waiting to see who will fill the committee positions vacated by Senators Conrad (ND), Nelson (NE) and Lugar (IN).
House: As of this writing, there are at least 85 new members of the House, with six races still being recounted or contested. It was always clear that Republicans would continue to control the House by relatively the same margin. The House Agriculture Committee has lost at least six members who are leaving Congress, and we will see if any other members leave to take other committee assignments. If the farm bill slips into next year, we will have approximately 200 members who have never voted on a farm bill. There is a great deal of work to do in 2013.
Lame Duck Agenda --
Congress reconvened during the week of November 12 to reorganize and lay out the agenda for the remainder of 2012. The issues surrounding the “fiscal cliff” (automatic tax increases and spending cuts) and what our leaders do — or fail to do —will have the focus of the nation and the world.
For months, we have been looking at various scenarios for passing a five-year farm bill. There are multiple ways to accomplish it, but until House leadership decides to move forward on the “fiscal cliff” issue, no probability can be assigned to getting it done this year, and it would then be extended and dealt with next year.
Huge Sugarbeet Crop --
Despite the drought, we are looking at a great crop this year. As we wrap up, harvest estimates are that we will see a 34-million ton beet crop. This, along with a good cane crop and larger production, enters a North American market that is oversupplied, and we will be carrying the highest level of stocks since 1999/ 2000. World sugar production is up, stocks are building, and prices are falling dramatically.
With the North American market awash in sugar under the current policy, the arguments by sugar users against our policy have collapsed. As we know, it’s easy to add sugar to a tight market, but it takes a long time to bring an oversupplied market back into balance.
2013 ASGA Annual Meeting --
Grower leaders from across the country will gather to get the latest information on what the election means for the future of U.S. agriculture and sugar policy. The legislative agenda, politics and priorities in the 113th Congress; the operation of sugar policy under the 2008 farm bill and the provisions of the 2012 farm bill; biotechnology; an update on the U.S.-Mexico sugar market, and other topics will take center stage at the annual meeting in San Diego on February 3-5. It is a meeting that no grower or industry supplier should miss. You can see the program, register for the meeting and make hotel reservations online at www.americansugarbeet.org. If you need other information, call the ASGA office at (202) 833-2398.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.