“We lost a lot of very good friends of southern agriculture, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who headed the very important Senate Agriculture Committee.”

There are four new Republicans and four new Democrats from rice states on the House Agriculture Committee, Morgan notes, and two new senators from rice states on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“On the Senate committee, there is no Democrat from a rice state. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who heads the committee, has a background with specialty crops and organic production. However, she has already evidenced a keen interest in all commodities and she has begun to assemble a very capable staff.  Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is the ranking minority member of the committee; he is best known for writing the Freedom to Farm legislation of 1996.

“We’ve really got a lot of work to do to cultivate relationships with the new committee leadership and new members.”

Morgan says he’s frequently asked why agriculture revenue programs are seldom slanted toward southern crops.

“You have only to look at the makeup of the ag committees — on the Senate side, committee members are predominantly from Midwest states; only four members are from the South. On the House ag committee, only 17 of 46 members are from southern states.”

The major focus of the new Congress, Morgan says, will be the fiscal 2012 budget, budget reconciliation, and fiscal year 2012 appropriations, and an appropriation to fund the government after March 4 of this year.

“Congress currently is wrangling over appropriations for the 2011 fiscal year, and the government is operating under a continuing resolution that expires March 4. The Republicans are threatening to shut the government down if they don’t get the spending cuts they want.