Elections Showed Ag And Rural Areas Have Clout

Regardless of whether their individual election hopes materialized, most Americans likely are celebrating the fact that the election is behind them.

Most surprising about Tuesday's results was the strength the Republican Party showed in gaining more seats in both the Senate and House. Beyond the presidential election where George Bush beat Sen. John Kerry, two of the most closely watched races were in South Dakota, where former Rep. John Thune unseated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and in Texas where longtime House fixture and ag advocate Charles Stenholm was defeated by Randy Neugebauer in a race forced by redistricting.

The striking thing is how overwhelmingly farm and ranch country voted for Bush. USA Today reports that the counties Bush carried accounted for 3.28 million square miles of land, while the counties Kerry controlled covered just 741,000 square miles. The contrast in outlook between urban and non-urban areas has never been so dramatic.

The one message rural and ag states sent in this election is that they still matter. You can bet that when farm and ranch policy is brought forward, the industry will have the ears of both parties.

The election results would seem to indicate we're likely to see aggressive action on making the tax cuts and reform enacted in 2001 and 2003 permanent. Perhaps most importantly, the Death Tax will be permanently repealed.

It would also appear the defeat of Kerry and Daschle, both major proponents of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL), spells a serious setback for mandatory COOL.

The Bush Administration also has laid out an aggressive domestic agenda that calls for tackling Social Security and health care reform, simplifying the tax code, and even more aggressive steps to reform education. In addition, tax refunds and deductions to help cover health insurance premiums are a top priority.

While very little likely will be addressed legislatively in the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, all ears will be tuned to announcements regarding the new Bush cabinet. In addition, both expectations and accountability will be higher for Republicans, with their stronger majority in the Senate possibly removing the gridlock that has characterized the Senate for the last several administrations.

Farm groups in general seemed ecstatic about the election outcome and what it portends for property rights, small business environment, trade, energy, and environmental and tax policies.