Today’s Election – Food for Thought

November 2nd, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Today’s Election – Food for Thought

As voters go to the polls today, jobs, the economy and health care will probably be front and center in their minds, at least according to the campaign news we’ve been hearing in recent weeks. Even though food, farming, and environmental related issues rarely make the headlines these days, there are some interesting developments in these areas (mostly occurring on more local and statewide levels) that are worth paying attention to as election results roll in throughout the evening.

Blanche Lincoln Chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and most polls have her losing, so we will certainly have new leadership in this position regardless of whether or not the Democrats remain in control of the Senate. In the House of Representatives, most analysts are predicting the Republicans will win control, which would most likely give the Agriculture Committee chairmanship to Frank Lucas from Oklahoma.

With new faces in Congress and new control of the legislature, important issues facing agriculture may be greeted with different ideas and different philosophies than the previous few years. What happens in today’s election could chart the course for U.S. agriculture for the next decade. The Democrats, and particularly the Obama administration, have placed more emphasis on rural development, local food and farmers markets than previous administrations. Historically, when the Republicans control the agenda as well as the funding, larger scale farming and big money agriculture have tended to be the beneficiary.

In California, a state that often leads the way with environmental issues, there are two pieces of legislation that face the voters this time around which are of particular interest – Prop 23 and Prop 26. Prop 23 would suspend California’s legislation to reduce green house gas emissions back to the same levels they were at in 1990, by the year 2020. The proposition allows for the legislation to be suspended until California’s unemployment rate is at 5.5% or less for a year or more. It could be a while before California sees those kind of unemployment numbers, which means they would also fall far behind in their goal to reduce green house gas emissions.

Prop 26 would require a two thirds vote from the California legislature (rather than the usual simple majority) to enact any regulatory fees, such as those imposed on tobacco companies (and then used to fund health related programs), or fees imposed on industries, which are then used for toxic waste clean up. If Prop 26 goes through, it means that the cost of regulation will be moved from industry to the taxpayer.

In Washington state, there is Referred Bill 52, which if it passes, would basically create a special tax on junk food, and the money in turn would go to making the public schools (grades K-12) more energy efficient. Seems like a reasonable tradeoff.

So, please go and vote today, whatever your political stripes. There’s a lot of noise out there and lots of people and pundits screaming and shouting. The best way to quiet the noise . . . go vote, for at that moment when you’re alone in the polling booth, the noise quiets down, and you can only hear your own thoughts and your own conscience. It’s a nice serenade.