Federal Policy News
November 10, 2022
Midterm Election Results Still Unclear,
Both Parties See Surprises
Midterm elections took place Tuesday night, but as of Thursday morning the fates of both the House and Senate remain in limbo. While the House picture should become a bit clearer in the coming days, Senate control may not be decided until early December when the Georgia runoff election will take place between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Two other key Senate races remain undecided as of this morning in Arizona and Nevada. With only 70% of the vote counted in Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly still maintains roughly a 5% lead over challenger Blake Masters. In Nevada, GOP challenger Adam Laxalt leads by nearly 2% points over Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Republicans must win two of those three states if they want to gain control of the upper chamber. It is worth noting the Alaska results are still not finalized as well, but it expected to remain in Republican hands. On the House side, called races appear to be at 207-184 in favor of Republicans this morning. Many races still remain uncalled, and several are expected to require recounts. While the math to reach a 218-vote majority favors Republicans at this time, there is still a slim chance Democrats could maintain their hold.

Going into Tuesday, many felt that Republicans were on the verge of a “red wave” year. While this does not appear to have materialized this time, the results currently remain mixed enough that both sides can claim some key victories for now. Despite record-high inflation and major economic concerns, Democrats were able to flip a Senate seat in Pennsylvania while also retaining control in New Hampshire and Colorado. They also scored unexpected House wins in Ohio and statewide control in Michigan for the first time in decades. Republicans similarly held the line in the Senate for North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Utah, and Florida. An unexpectedly close race in the New York governor’s race also appears to have benefited the GOP down ballot in several House races there. And perhaps most importantly, dominating wins by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio would appear to have moved Florida firmly out of “battleground” status and into a safe Republican state.

In California, Sen. Alex Padilla has already been confirmed as the winner despite less than half of those votes being counted—the same remains the case for Gov. Gavin Newsom as well. Nearly all of the competitive House races remain too early to call at this time. California’s process for collecting and counting ballots will take much longer than most other states, meaning House control could very well be decided from these races. Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Mike Levin look to be in potential trouble while Republican Reps. Ken Calvert and David Valadao are also in a similar position as well. Again though, some of these races are reporting less than 40% of the total vote at this time, so the current figures are not reliable just yet.

CAFB will continue to update members as these results begin to finalize.
California Farm Bureau Comments on
USEPA PFAS Proposed Rule
California Farm Bureau submitted comments earlier this week to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to a proposed rule to designate perfluorooctnoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), the two most common per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS), as hazardous materials under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Through CERCLA, EPA has the power to seek out those parties responsible for any release and ensure their cooperation in the cleanup. CERCLA imposes liability on parties responsible for, in whole or in part, the presence of hazardous substances at a site. USEPA’s proposed rule would require anyone who releases certain levels of PFOA and PFOS into soil or water to report it to federal or tribal authorities. While EPA has stated that the intent of this rule is to hold the producers and users of these chemicals accountable, there is no language in this rulemaking that protects innocent landowners who passively receive these chemicals.

In addition to the comments filed, a Farm Team Alert on the proposed rule resulted in 1,030 comments to U.S. EPA and Members of Congress. We thank members for their participation in this critical issue!
Costa Introduces Farm Bill Marker Legislation to Increase Market Access for Farmers
Last week, Rep. Jim Costa (D, CA-16) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at developing and promoting new business opportunities for US-produced agricultural goods. The Supporting Market Access to Reinvigorate Trade (SMART) Act of 2022 would provide at least $400 million per fiscal year for the Market Access Program (MAP) and nearly $70 million a year for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program. These programs help with market distribution and access to primary and secondary markets around the globe for American farmers. With billions being exported out of California each year, increased market access has long been a key priority for producers here in the state. With the Farm Bill approaching next year, there will likely be interest to potentially envelope the policy ideas into the legislation. CAFB will continue to update members as this progresses.
USDA Launches Loan Assistance Tool
At the end of October, the USDA announced a newly launched Loan Assistance Tool aimed to help improve the loan application process. Internal data had shown that USDA experiences a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, particularly amongst historically underserved customers. They cited the lengthy paper-based application process and overall confusion in the system as two key issues. The new tool attempts to simplify this process by helping interested applicants navigate the required documents in a more manageable process.

The new tool reduces the overall documentation by about 40% and allows for paperless and electronic signature options. With over 100,000 producers relying on USDA loans of some form, the improvements should hopefully provide a major benefit for both existing and potential customers. If you have utilized USDA loans previously or would like to learn more, you can click below to directly visit the new portal.
2022 Farm Service Agency County Committee
Elections Begin Next Week
USDA will begin mailing ballots next week for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) county and urban county committee elections to all eligible agricultural producers and private landowners across the country. Elections are occurring in certain Local Administrative Areas (LAA) for these committee members who make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally. Producers and landowners must return ballots to their local FSA county office or have their ballots be postmarked by Dec. 5, 2022, for those ballots to be counted.  

Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the county committee election. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation but may not have applied for or received FSA program benefits. Additionally, producers who are not of legal voting age but supervise and conduct farming operations for an entire farm are eligible to vote in these elections. 

Each committee has from three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms, and at least one seat representing an LAA is up for election each year. Ballots must be in the mail or delivered in person by close of business Dec. 5, 2022, to be counted. Newly elected committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2023.  

Producers can find out if their LAA is up for election and if they are eligible to vote by contacting their local FSA county office. Eligible voters who do not receive a ballot in the mail can request one from their local FSA county office.
Reminder - American Farm Bureau Fall 2022
Drought Survey Now Open
With multiple states continuing to experience severe drought conditions, American Farm Bureau Federation is once again updating their Assessing Western Drought Survey. The survey is open to all members; both those who took previous versions of the survey as well as those who did not. The data collected from this survey will be aggregated and summarized by American Farm Bureau Federation staff economists and be utilized to inform short-term disaster relief needs as well as long-term policy proposals aimed at assisting agriculture with drought preparedness, resilience, and response. Please consider responding today here.
Federal Policy Team
Matthew Viohl
Federal Policy, Associate Director
Erin Hutson
Federal Policy, Consultant