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Analyzing the election's impact on ag

FARGO, N.D. — Redder, bluer, and a more challenging environment for production agriculture.

That's how Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington analyst, assesses the result of the November elections. Wiesemeyer spoke Nov. 27 at the annual Northern Ag Expo in Fargo on "Washington Volatility to Continue: Updates on Economy, Farm Policy, Energy and Trade."

"Red states got redder, blue states got bluer," Wiesemeyer said. "The urban/rural divide is increasing. In the future, it's going to be harder to pass farm bills. The more urbanites and suburbanites you get — many of them now don't like production agriculture. You'll get some (farm bill) amendments that will get surprising support against production agriculture."

Red states are ones that generally vote Republican. Blue states are ones that generally vote Democrat.

The U.S. farm bill, updated every five years, is the centerpiece of federal food and agricultural policy.

President Donald Trump's involvement in the fall elections was a major factor, Wiesemeyer said.

"It allowed Democrats to win control of the House. But it also helped Republicans to expand their majority" in the Senate, he said.

As a result of the election, elected Republicans are "more Trumpian," Wiesemeyer said, noting that Trump attracted a great deal of support in the 2016 presidential campaign from voters who felt that "neither political party was listening to them. That's Trump, in spades."

Democrats, in turn, "are more liberal after losses by moderates in their party to such a degree that they're going to have an intra-party fight over what Democrats should stand for," he said.

Democrats in the U.S. House "are moving to the left, so that tells me that something close to gridlock (will occur) in Washington. Which some people say is not a bad development," Wiesemeyer said.

As for the next presidential election, "I think Trump wants to run for re-election," he said.

Wiesemeyer doesn't have "the foggiest idea" who the Democrats will select to run against Trump, but thinks the candidate could be "a fresh face that the so-called experts haven't even talked about much."

Here are Wiesemeyer's observations on three area elected officials who represent many of the people who attended the Northern Ag Expo.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.: A good bet to eventually become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, a post currently held by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Hoeven now serves as chairman of the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee, "an important position."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who was defeated for re-election by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.: "I think she did a good job. I think (the backing of) Trump definitely helped Cramer."

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who will head the U.S. House Ag Committee now that Democrats have regained control of the House: "He only won by six (percentage) points," a relatively small margin of victory for the popular incumbent. "So I think that's a signal for the future in that very conservative big district." Wiesemeyer also said that Peterson, whose district includes the nation's top sugar beet-producing area, "carries the ball for (U.S.) sugar policy. When you want a guy in the fox hole, he's your guy."