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An Election Year Impact

American flag flying over midwest crop field

It’s a presidential election year in case you hadn’t heard. But the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (they are up every two years) and 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats (terms are six years but staggered with 1/3 of the seats up every two years) will also be on the ballot this November.


That adds a potential sense of urgency for incumbents to show voters that they can accomplish something. And that means anyone investing in farmland ownership or connected to agriculture in any way will have much to watch from now until November 5th.


The presidential race likely includes a 2020 rematch. It was unusual then and looks like it will be unique in 2024 because it involves the same two people.


In 2020 Democrat Joe Biden (the former vice president) defeated Republican Donald Trump (the president seeking re-election). This time, it’s Biden trying to keep his job, while Trump tries to emulate the success of a politician 240 years ago. Back then, Democrat Grover Cleveland – who lost re-election in 1888, defeated Benjamin Harrison, the man who beat Cleveland four years earlier.


HISTORY LESSON: Pew Research Center traces the races where former presidents tried to become president again. Read that here.    


In 2024, Trump could be more influential in terms of what Congress does or does not do during this election year because of the power he still wields over some members. He may have already demonstrated that in publicly opposing any House Republican efforts to work on a bipartisan border security deal.


So, keep Trump in mind as a wild card on anything that requires action in the House until the election.  


Agriculture Dive breaks down several issues to watch that could be impacted by politics this year, including a new Farm Bill, H-2A visa reform, foreign land ownership restrictions, new rules on competition and additional transparency in product labeling. Read that story here.


All those issues could be relevant to landowners when it comes to workers, concerns about China, competing against giant corporations and knowing where food is grown or produced.


But the Farm Bill could have the most far-reaching implications because of the potential impact on so many aspects. Last year was the 90th anniversary of the Farm Bill. “The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933” was part of the New Deal, according to this historical piece in the Library of Congress.


Farmers back then were dealing with the aftermath of World War I, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The Farm Bill provided subsidies in exchange for reducing certain commodity crop production. That reduced surplus and raised crop prices.


The modern version of the Farm Bill is far more expansive, which is why so many agricultural industries and agricultural investors await its delayed specifics. Congress is generally expected to pass a new Farm Bill every five years, although that didn’t happen last year. So, Congress agreed to extend the agreement that had been set to expire.


RELATED: While you wait to find out if 2024 brings a new Farm Bill, you can take advantage of a new USDA program. Farmers and ranchers can now make USDA farm loan payments online. Find out the details here. 


When and if Congress can reach bipartisan agreement (a reminder: Republicans control the U.S. House and Democrats hold power in the U.S. Senate) on a new version of this multi-faceted farm and food policy agreement, members will be establishing policy in four main areas:


I. Nutrition

II. Crop Insurance

III. Conservation

IV. Commodity Programs


But those are the broader themes. When you investigate some of the Farm Bill’s specifics, you see why it touches so many Americans in numerous ways: farm program payments, food production, conservation efforts, rural development, nutrition for lower income families, specialty crops, bioenergy programs, commodities’ support, research, crop insurance, marketing loans, and broadband grants.


The Congressional Budget Office projects the cost of the 2018 Farm Bill would be $428 billion over its five years. Read the USDA report on that here.  


The next one ---whenever that happens – could top $1 trillion.


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