The 2020 election results will affect the future of food, agriculture, and labor policies in the United States.
In a closely-watched House race, Minnesota congressperson and chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson lost his bid for reelection. Peterson, a Democrat, has served as a representative for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District since 1990.
The loss impacts the future of the House Agriculture Committee, which has legislative jurisdiction over issues including agriculture, food, and rural development. An agriculture lobbyist reports that the industry is uncertain what the food and agriculture policy in the country will look like without the leadership of Peterson.
But some experts are hopeful that Peterson’s loss presents a chance to create change in the sector. “Peterson losing was exciting to me because it opens up new leadership on that committee,” Patricia Griffin, Partner at NVG LLC says in a post-election panel hosted by Food Tank and Table 81. She continues, “The next couple folks who are in line are much more progressive…That, to me, provides an opportunity.”
Congressional elections across the country may bring further changes to the Agriculture Committee. Xochitl Torres Small, Democratic representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District and a member of the Agriculture Committee, failed to win her reelection campaign. And additional members of the Committee in districts of Illinois, New York, Virginia, and California are still waiting on results of their races.
The results of ballot measures also have implications for food system workers in states across the U.S. In California, voters passed Proposition 22, which allows companies such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, and Instacart to treat their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This change exempts gig workers from rights such as workers’ compensation and the right to a safe workplace.
But in Florida, labor activists celebrated a win with the passing of Amendment 2, which will raise the state’s hourly minimum wage to US$15. Beginning in September 2021, the measure will raise the minimum wage from US$8.56 to US$10 per hour. The hourly wage will then increase by US$1 every year through September 2026.
Despite the outcomes of this election, Navina Khanna, Director of the HEAL Food Alliance stresses that the changes brought by the election were never going to solve the problems in the food system.
“One election was not going to be the silver bullet that changed everything for us,” Khanna says on the panel. “We’ve been in this fight for a really long time and the attacks are going to come on our communities, but we are still here. And we are still organizing together and we are still building our power together.”
Photo courtesy of Lambros Lyrarakis, Unsplash