Seven of the 23 Democratic senators facing reelection in 2018 are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, potentially adding to the pressure of drafting the next farm bill. Congress hasn’t completed a farm bill on time since 1990. Three other Democrats with expiring terms are also from farm or ranch states, so rural America will get plenty of attention in the midterm elections.
Two Ag Committee members, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, could be among the most vulnerable farm-state Democrats. Heitkamp won her first term in 2012 by 2,936 votes. Donnelly won in a reliably conservative state because Republicans defeated longtime Senator Richard Lugar in the primary. Heitkamp and Donnelly have been centrists on the Agriculture Committee. President-elect Donald Trump carried both states by large margins, a sign of GOP power.
Also up for reelection will be the top Democrat on the committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with colleagues Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York state, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. It’s somewhat of an oddity that no Republicans and all but two Democrats on the committee are up for reelection in the same year. Other farm-state Democrats with expiring terms are Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jon Tester of Montana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.