House Republicans may yet win control of the House when the final votes are counted. But the GOP leadership will have at best a very small majority that could make it difficult for them to pass legislative priorities.
A thin majority empowers individual members to derail bills, something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dealt with as she tried to move President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. House progressives, for example, delayed passage of the infrastructure bill.
Take note: The conservative House Freedom Caucus holds a new member orientation today and tomorrow,  and the agenda includes discussion of how to use issues like the farm bill as “leverage points.”
Still, former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says the narrow election results could strengthen the GOP leadership’s hand in dealing with rank-and-file members. The leadership can argue that voters don’t “want us to go off and make radical changes that are going to make everything partisan,” Peterson said in a webinar hosted by the North American Agricultural Journalists.
Watch the Agri-Pulse post-election webinar with Mike Torrey and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
Deadline for rail strike pushed back to at least Dec. 4
The prospect of a rail strike is a little less imminent after rail carriers and at least one of the major rail unions agreed to extend the negotiating deadline from Nov. 19 to early December. The two sides differed on the date: The carriers said it’s at least until Dec 4; the union said the new date is Dec. 9.
The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the nation’s freight carriers, said Wednesday the extension will give members of unions still facing ratification votes time “to complete their voting without disruption from the threat of a strike.”
“The railroads will remain engaged with [the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters] throughout the extended cooling-off period and will continue to seek an agreement based on the framework recommended by Presidential Emergency Board,” the committee said.
Seven of nine unions have ratified the proposed pact and two, including the BMWED and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, have not. The next votes are scheduled for Nov. 14 and Nov. 21.
From the union side: The BMWED said that with the extension, “there is absolutely no reason for the railroads to discontinue services or threaten to discontinue their services causing intentional economic harm to their customers and the U.S. economy. ... There is now more than adequate time for the railroads to come to the bargaining table, engage in good-faith negotiations with us and reach a voluntary agreement to provide all railroad workers with paid sick leave.”
Ohio to draft western Lake Erie TMDL by end of year
Ohio has agreed to release a draft plan to address nutrient loads that have contributed to harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie.
In a proposed consent decree with EPA, Ohio said it would issue a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, proposal by Dec. 31, and a final TMDL by June 30.
Under the proposed consent decree, if EPA disapproves the TMDL submission, plaintiffs in the litigation that resulted in the agreement “would not object to EPA taking up to six months to develop its own TMDL.”
The Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago sued EPA in 2018, challenging its approval of Ohio’s list of impaired waters because it did not place a high-enough priority on the development of a TMDL for western Lake Erie.
Brazil raises soybean production forecast
Brazil’s National Supply Company, which goes by the Portuguese acronym of CONAB, on Wednesday said it expects farmers to produce 153.5 million metric tons of soybeans for the 2022-23 marketing year. Farmers, CONAB said, are going to plant more and get stronger yields despite late rainfall this planting season.
“In Mato Grosso, the main producing state of the grain, the works are approaching the end and the crops are showing good development, despite the irregularity of the rains,” CONAB said about the soybean crop that is more than half planted.
USDA on Wednesday left its forecast for Brazilian soybean production for 2022-23 unchanged at 152 million metric tons. That would be up from the 127 million metric tons that Brazil produced for 2021-22.
GOP egg farmer wins Florida ag commissioner race
Republican Wilton Simpson, an egg farmer and president of the Florida state senate who spent a hefty $2.4 million on his campaign, defeated Democrat Naomi Blemur for control of the state’s agriculture department. The position is currently held by Democrat Nikki Fried, who ran for governor but lost the primary to Charlies Crist, who then lost to incumbent Ron DeSantis.
Blemur, a Haitian-American minister and community leader, raised only $104,049 for her campaign.
In addition to agriculture-related duties, the commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services also oversees weapon licensing, a power for which both parties have aggressively vied for control.
Other races: Sid Miller won a third term as Texas's Agriculture Commissioner, taking down Democrat Susan Hayes. In Iowa, current Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig fended off a challenge from Democrat John Norwood for the seat.
Vilsack heads to COP27 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss the dairy industry’s effort to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions, climate-smart agriculture and an international effort to increase ag research spending at the COP27 meeting in Egypt Friday and Saturday.
He will talk with USAID Administrator Samantha Power and former Secretary of State John Kerry about the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate or AIM4C), a joint initiative by the United States and the United Arab Emirates to boost ag research. When it was launched with $4 billion in commitments from participating nations, the leaders of the initiative said they hoped to double that amount by COP27.
He said it: “I’m looking for competition, not conflict” – President Joe Biden, when asked Wednesday about what he would say to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia next week.
Biden and Xi will both be attending the G-20 summit. Biden said he expected he would discuss both “fair trade” and Taiwan issue with his Chinese counterpart.

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