KANSAS CITY, MO. — The November 2022 primary elections triggered questions from the ag community about what policy changes to expect. Offering some possible answers, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) hosted a webinar on Nov. 15, titled “Midterm Election Results and the Impact on Agriculture Policy,” that recapped the midterm results and the impact on agriculture policy.

Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018, with 221 seats to date and one race remaining.

“In the House as a body, it’s majority rule,” said John Weber, webinar speaker and principal at Monument Advocacy. “It’s from the top down, and whoever controls the gavel, really controls the landscape.”

According to Weber, the last time House margins were this tight was 1917 and 1931. Weber noted his surprise at the unexpected and historically tight margins, leading him to conclude that candidate quality matters — people are voting for the individuals, not necessarily the party. Additionally, primaries matter.

“In cases in Oregon and Washington state, we saw longstanding, productive members who have held seats for a long time, go down in the primaries to more progressive and more conservative members in the right and left,” Weber said. “Both those members went on to lose their seats in the primary elections.”

With Republicans holding the House majority for the first time in years, a shift in agenda is anticipated. Weber expects the House’s priority will be “extensive, extensive” oversight of the Biden administration. Additionally, the House will likely emphasize committees’ oversight, marking up of bills and tension issues unresolved from previous years. He added that meat and poultry processors can expect talk of increased line speeds.

“I think something you’re not going to see in ag committee under Republican leadership is bills that are unveiled that are going to take industry by surprise,” Weber said. “There’s going to be a collaborative outreach. Whether it’s food safety, whether it’s trade, whether it’s labor issues that may be outside the jurisdiction of the committee but impacts processors, you’re going to see a lot of collaborative effort to bring in industry experts.”

Meanwhile, Democrats have majority over the Senate, currently filling 50 seats and awaiting results from the Georgia runoff race on Dec. 6.

“We know that the lame-duck is going to be pretty busy,” said Danielle Beck, director of government relations at Invariant, a bipartisan government relations and communications firm.

With a limited time before Democrats lose control of the House, Congress is going to be busy trying to pass key initiatives. To add to the pressure, on Dec. 16, the government runs out of funding.

Naming a few possible issues Democrats might work to address before the end of the year, Beck expects retirement savings, healthcare programs and trade policy could make it to legislation. She added that immigration is of interest but will not likely reach complete policy given the short timeframe. Any issue that fails to make it across the finish line, could be revived in the 118th Congress.

While the House has been busy preparing for the Farm Bill with 12 hearings, the Senate has had two field hearings and its first formal hearing on Nov. 15.

“If I’m being glass half empty — or possibly more realistic — it’s pretty unlikely that we see a Farm Bill happen in 2023,” Beck said.

Beck suggests a divide in nutrition policy from farm policy as a possible means to get the Farm Bill 2023 across the finish line. She said that themes like conservation programs, work compliance on nutrition systems and healthcare benefits, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, foreign market development, and livestock industry issues will likely pop up in Farm Bill discussions.