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More balance, less bumbling
According to most political wags, November 7’s election results were delivered more by do-nothing Republicans than by here’s-what-we-want-to-do Democrats.

OK, but so what?

After all, it’s not exactly brilliant insight to note that if a team fumbles the ball every time it touches it - and the GOP, according to voters, fumbled everything it touched: Iraq, honest government, the federal budget, immigration, trade... - the team loses.

Whether the GOP could have won had they played flawlessly is immaterial now because they didn’t. For most of 2006 they bumbled, stumbled and fumbled and, from Rhode Island to Oregon, the Dems ran it back all the way Election Day.

Game over. Next.

Next, of course, is what the Dems hope - or have - to do with their surprising doubleheader win. A quick check of next session’s 110th Congressional lineup, both old and new, gives some hints.

First, 20 of the 30 or so Republican incumbent Representatives defeated were staunch supporters of the House’s no-amnesty, build-a-wall immigration policy.

Now, with the guts of that group littering America from New Hampshire to Arizona, the White House has chosen its less restrictive immigration reform approach to signal incoming Democrats of its willingness for more bipartisanship.

And House aggies from both parties will help because 24 percent of all U.S. farm workers, according to a March 2006 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, “are unauthorized migrants.”

Immigration was an important election issue in California races; it helped defeat Richard Pombo, the seven-term, GOP vice chair of the House Ag Committee.

Second, free trade, or more accurately, anti-free trade, was a top five issue in most races. In House districts where it climbed to a top number two or three issue, 16 Republican incumbent House free-traders were flamed.

The story was the same in Senate races that delivered Dems the upper chamber. Five new Democratic senators are, according to the trade watchdog Public Citizen, strong skeptics of America’s free trade policies.

Seasoned members of the congressional ag committees take note: Several of these new members are heading your way and none of ‘em owes their victories to either you or your committees’ long-time love affair with free trade.

Indeed, the opposite is closer to the truth and, given that most newcomer wins were razor-thin, turning their backs on the voters by compromising or weakening their victorious trade views will not occur.

Nor should it because, as Daryll Ray’s ag policy shop at the University of Tennessee recently explained (, 35 years of trade-based Farm Bills have delivered little to American farmers.

Ray’s trade numbers - the top 15 crop exports, since peaking at a collective 138 million tons in 1981, have topped 120 million tons only four times since - are shocking evidence that Farm Bills built on trade (or, as he calls it, “lower prices”) are houses built on shaky foundations.

Likewise, so is a 2007 Farm Bill that over-emphasizes biofuels. Sure, newcomers and old salts alike are now all rolling in the biomass grass with ethanol and other alternative fuels and all are promising strong, new language to push biofuels into a bigger farm policy role.

But bigger will not be better if $4 corn drives 15 percent of the livestock sector into bankruptcy, a large chunk of American soybean production is exported to South America and SUV owners are stupidly promised $2 gas through 2025.

All Congressional newcomers are tightwads, also. They will, as should their colleagues, heed the electorate’s call for smart spending over dumb deficits.

Indeed, if Nov. 7 delivered one message to Capitol Hill that message was Congress needs more balance. Voters replaced nearly three dozen of the most conservative House and Senate Republicans with an equal number of moderate to right-leaning Democrats.

That means most Americans now want a way out of Iraq in the least worst - not the fastest - manner; that free trade is lame horse, stable it; get immigration reform done; work together for fair and balanced tax and budget policies; purge Congress of its crooks.

In short, stop the bumbling, stumbling and fumbling and lead.

And P.S., you have two years.

This farm news was published in the Nov. 22, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.