NCBA laments loss of Sen. Lincoln on ag committee
By TIM HEARDEN
Livestock and poultry groups expressed disappointment that a friendly chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Democrat Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, lost last week's election.
But they hope the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will tighten the reins on regulatory agencies.
Lincoln's loss on Nov. 2 marked one of many dramatic changes that the 2010 congressional elections will bring to the leadership and membership of the two chambers' agriculture committees.
"We were very pleased to have the chairman of the (Senate) ag committee being from a major poultry state," said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council. "She took her chances with some of the votes she cast. Her vote on the health care plan was not popular in Arkansas and she paid the price. Still, we hated to see that happen."
Colin Woodall, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's vice president of government affairs, also lamented Lincoln's defeat.
"She's been a long-time supporter of the cattle industry and a good friend of NCBA, so losing her we think is going to be a big hit," Woodall said. He added the NCBA has a good relationship with Lincoln's opponent, Republican Rep. John Boozman, "but he's not going to be chairman of the Senate ag committee."
Lincoln was one of several "good friends" of NCBA who lost seats or are in danger of losing, Woodall said. Others included Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd of Florida and Jim Costa of California, who was trailing Republican challenger Andy Vidak in a tight race on Nov. 5.
"Without them around, I think it's going to hurt, especially when dealing with the Democratic caucus," Woodall said.
However, Woodall and Lobb both said House Republicans -- including the Agriculture Committee chaired by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. -- are more likely to scrutinize agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Farm groups including the NCBA have been fighting the EPA's greenhouse gas "endangerment" ruling, which was the first step toward their regulation as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Congressional Republicans have vowed to block the ruling.
The GOP majority is a setback for antibiotics restrictions that have been pushed by Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, but the Food and Drug Administration may try to enforce limits administratively, said Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council.
"We're going to see more action from regulatory agencies now that Democrats aren't in control of both houses," Warner said. "The way the administration can get its agenda through is with regulation."
Members of Congress in both parties have also blasted the U.S. Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed new restrictions on the marketing of livestock.
Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, said defeats suffered by some GIPSA critics could be "a positive signal that this new Congress may well be receptive to pursuing reforms under the GIPSA rule."
"We could see some more oversight hearings on this GIPSA rule, which our friends on the Republican side and many on the Democratic side don't like," Woodall said.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://beefusa.org
R-CALF USA: www.r-calfusa.com
National Pork Producers Council: www.nppc.org
National Chicken Council: www.nationalchickencouncil.com