Few would be taken aback if the coming elections usher in a massive new class to Congress. A hefty turnover certainly won’t surprise a handful of veteran, congressional liaisons from major commodity and farm groups that Farm Press has spoken with.

The House

All believe the chance of Republicans wresting control from Democrats is greatest in the House. If that happens, it’s expected that Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas will take the House Agriculture Committee chairmanship from Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson.

“I think the two of them will continue to work pretty closely together,” says a D.C.-based source. “They have under the current arrangement. The big difference, I think, would be relative to the farm bill. The schedule for doing the next farm bill under Lucas would be much later.”

As chairman, Peterson has pushed to start the farm bill process early, aiming for the bill to largely be written in 2011. Observers speculate that Lucas would prefer to focus on oversight issues – reining in the EPA and checking into several controversial USDA programs -- in 2011 before getting to the meat of the next farm bill in 2012.

Looking at the current House Agriculture Committee roster, many of the members up for reelection – particularly Democrats -- are in tough battles. Some, perhaps many, are unlikely to return to Congress meaning new members for the committee.

If Republicans take the House, new committee slots will open up for the party. In that case, Lucas would face the difficulty of writing a new farm bill with members trying to find their feet.

Another pressing factor is uncertainty over the budget. Will there be an effort to pass a budget reconciliation bill next year? If so, how might that impact the writing of the next farm bill?

Sources – willing to speak on their work only if left unidentified -- say there is much speculation on whether a truly robust reconciliation bill will be offered. Will significant cuts be made across the board and how best for agriculture interests to strategize?

The liaisons suggest it might be better for agriculture, as part of that reconciliation effort, to try and extend the authorization for the current farm bill programs. Otherwise, there could be cuts in 2011 followed by writing a new farm bill in 2012 – a scenario that could open agriculture up to even more budget cuts.

Also possible: a combined process if budget reconciliation takes off in 2011.

“Of course, that’s an unknown, right now,” says another source. “If Republicans control the House and Democrats remain in control of the Senate, I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to get together on a budget-cutting bill.”