Jim Wiesemeyer, senior vice president, Informa Economics, Washington, D.C., told attendees during the morning program of the 2012 USA Rice Outlook Conference that shifting demographics in America, congressional efforts to address the nation's debt and deficit situation, and the increasing energy independence of America will all impact the direction of the country in the coming years.

Wiesemeyer said the Republican Party must choose candidates that can appeal to minority voters or run the risk of losing the White House and Senate seats in 2016 and predicted comprehensive immigration reform within the next 18 months.

Regarding the fiscal cliff negotiations, Wiesemeyer predicted congressional agreement and said the new farm bill will be part of that package.  If not, he noted, there would be some type of extension of the current law, but key to the farm bill negotiations are budget savings and the farm safety net. "Obama will get his tax increase on the wealthy of about 2 percent and Republicans will demand comprehensive entitlement reform in exchange," he said.

Despite the current economic uncertainty, Wiesemeyer is optimistic about the future of the American economy, which will be boosted by the nation's increasing energy independence, a strong agricultural sector and successful negotiation of new trade agreements.