With the results of the U.S. November election in, now is the time to engage in a new political climate that will affect the prospects for organic agriculture in the coming years.
The potential for change was strong, with every seat in the House of Representatives and 36 seats in the Senate up for grabs. And change there will be, with many new faces bound for Congress in January. This offers us new challenges—and perhaps a few opportunities—as we share our messages about organic agriculture and the importance it plays in our country’s agricultural and economic landscape with policymakers in Washington.
A strong Organic Political Action Committee has never been more important.
Going forward with the new Congress
Organic made substantial progress this year, securing important wins with the approval of the 2014 Farm Bill. Now, it is crucial that we build and maintain relationships with congressional leaders to protect the gains we won with this legislation. Only in continuing to foster our relationships with those in Congress who have proven to support provisions for organic and cultivating relationships with new leaders can we protect and grow organic’s profile in D.C. Now, more than ever, it is critical that our members play an active role in government relations and advocacy. A very tangible way for you to do so is to be actively involved in Organic PAC.
Did you know that OTA's Organic PAC is the only Political Action Committee (PAC) dedicated to advancing organic agriculture and trade? Want Organic PAC news and invitations?
What we’re up against
It’s hard to predict what might happen next year, but we can anticipate a number of strategies going forward by the new congressional leadership. We should expect to see increased oversight of USDA’s implementation of the Farm Bill, the Environmental Protection Agency’s waters of the U.S. rule, and the Interior Department’s endangered species listings. We may see interest in Farm Bill “corrections” legislation, which could make the organic wins of earlier this year vulnerable to congressional revision. We will be calling on you—because now it will be more important than ever that our membership play an active role in government relations and advocacy.
How did Organic PAC-supported candidates fare?
For this election cycle, Organic PAC provided $50,000 of financial support to incumbent Senators and Representatives. Organic PAC was truly bipartisan and bicameral—supporting 12 House Democrats and 13 House Republicans, and five Senate Democrats and four Senate Republicans. Of those 34 officials, only one candidate, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., lost his bid for reelection.
What happened on Election Day?
Republicans won control of the Senate, due to the reelections of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and the capturing of at least seven seats currently held by Democrats—in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
The next Senate will have at least 52 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 2 Independents. Still outstanding are two seats: in Alaska, where Republican Attorney General Dan Sullivan leads incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Begich by approximately 8,000 votes; and the race in Louisiana, which is headed to a runoff on Dec. 6 between incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Senate Agriculture Committee – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., won reelection, and is expected to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in January. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., also won reelection, and is expected to remain on the Senate Agriculture Committee but move to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The House of Representatives remains under Republican control, with a gain of at least 14 seats. The next House of Representatives will have at least 243 Republicans and 176 Democrats.
House Agriculture Committee – Current House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., won reelection, but is stepping down from his chairmanship. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, won his bid for a 13th term. Congressman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, also won reelection, and is expected to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January. A number of members of the House Agriculture Committee lost their bids for reelection—freshman Congressman Bill Enyart, D-Ill., lost his bid for reelection to Republican Mike Bost; Rep Vance McCallister, R-La., came in fourth place in his race, and will not be on the ballot in the runoff; and Rep. Peter Gallego, D-Texas, lost his bid for reelection to Will Hurd. Meanwhile, incumbent Jim Costa, D-Calif., is behind his challenger by 736 votes, which may lead to a recount. Although not on the committee, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., who played a significant role in the debate over SNAP funding in the Farm Bill by championing large cuts to SNAP funding, lost his bid for reelection to Gwen Graham.
House Organic Caucus – There are 46 members of the House Organic Caucus. Of those, seven retired. In addition, three—Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.—lost their bids for reelection, and one—Julia Brownley, D-Calif., is in a race too close to call. The remaining 35 House Organic Caucus members, including Farm Bill champions such as Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and Caucus Co-Chairs Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Ron Kind, D-Wis.; and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., won reelection.
We urge you to be part of Organic PAC as we go forward with this new Congress. Help us support those in Congress who can help protect the wins organic made in the 2014 Farm Bill, and help organic agriculture be a larger part of the growing U.S. agricultural landscape. Please reach out to learn more about the many important ways you can help protect organic in the next Congress—whether through inviting your elected officials to visit your facilities in district, meeting with them here in D.C., serving on the Organic PAC Board, and, of course, donating to Organic PAC!
What is Organic PAC?
Organic PAC is the only Political Action Committee dedicated to advancing organic agriculture and trade in order to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy.
What does Organic PAC support?
Organic PAC provides financial assistance to candidates for Congress who are, or who can be, influential in protecting or promoting organic agriculture and trade. The bipartisan Organic PAC will help educate candidates and develop new industry champions.
How can you get involved?
Organic PAC is supported by the voluntary, personal contributions of owners and executives of OTA member companies who recognize the importance of our industry’s voice on Capitol Hill.