In the recent U.S. election, one of the most prominent Dem losers was longtime ag committee chairman Collin Peterson.
The race to be the new chair is already underway. The three front-runners — Georgian David Scott, Californian Jim Costa, and Ohioan Marcia Fudge — each represent a different direction. Scott and Fudge are stronger advocates for supplemental nutrition programs than traditional farm programs; Costa is the group’s Big Ag, status quo favourite.
Right now, Scott leads the race; he is the committee’s most senior Dem, has committee support, and received Peterson’s blessing. Fudge, an attorney by training and former small-city mayor by choice, is a long shot but could be Biden’s secretary of agriculture.
That leaves Costa, a self-described “third-generation farmer” who has spent most of his 40-year career in public office.
Interestingly, none of the three have deep ties to today’s long-running federal farm programs.
In fact, when Big Ag groups realized Peterson was sinking in his re-election race, ag campaign money poured in to help him. It was a poor investment; Peterson got smoked.
Which should raise some uncomfortable questions in farm and ranch circles. Specifically, just how politically powerful is Big Ag today if it can’t pull a 30-year, rural incumbent congressman over the finish line?
The best explanation is the most likely one: Rural America isn’t politically red because of farmers and ranchers; it’s red despite them. They don’t carry the vote; they tag along.
If accurate then Big Ag badly needs to find a more urban champion because that old rural-urban Farm Bill coalition just moved to the city.
The Farm & Food File is published weekly in newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada.