Alan Guebert

Mother Nature turned a colorful, late fall into a bitterly cold, early winter as if to prove — after a planting, growing and harvest season marked by floods, drought and mud — that she’s still in charge and still not happy.

Not happy about what? No one can say; but almost every American from Montana’s western slope to Maryland’s eastern shore spent part of early November muttering, “Man, it’s going to be a long winter.”

It’s already been a long winter in Washington, D.C. In fact, spring never seems to arrive there anymore. It’s purely cold-eyed politics on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue 24/7/365. Worse, with impeachment in the air at least through Christmas, don’t expect one degree of peace, goodwill, or warmth until, ironically, the dead of winter, in January.

But there’s still work to do. Congress needs to pass, and President Donald J. Trump needs to sign, an extension to the continuing budget resolution that expires Nov. 21. Right now, House Democrats and Senate Republicans seem to agree that a just-in-time deal is possible.

The hard part, however, is knowing what the impeachment-scorched White House will do. Will the President sign a House/Senate deal or will he stew over impeachment as yet another government shutdown looms a week before Thanksgiving?

Only one person knows that answer and he holds the felt pen to make either happen.

Also, the NAFTA 2.0 update, now a year old, continues to hang fire in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi reassured members on Oct. 31 (interestingly, the same day House Democrats voted to hold public impeachment hearings) that she will bring the deal to a vote “when we’re ready.” Asked when that might be, Pelosi just smiled and noted, “We’re close.”

Close is what Pelosi is cutting it if the treaty is to be voted on this year. After Nov. 17, the Senate has just 15 scheduled days left in this year’s session and the House has only 12. Impeachment hearings may force the Speaker to add more House days in December, though.

Tough, ugly politics is pushing more than just the calendar. So far, 18 Republican House members (20 according to Politico) and four GOP senators will not seek reelection next year. By contrast, only six Democratic House members and only one Dem senator have announced their retirement in 2020.

Three departing House Republicans have long histories and deep ties to agriculture. One, Texan Mike Conaway, served as House ag chairman for two terms. Another Texan, Mac Thornberry, is a rancher and the third, Illinoisan John Shimkus, is an ardent ethanol supporter.

One of the retiring GOP senators, 83-year-old Kansan Pat Roberts, is the only member of Congress ever to chair both the House Ag Committee and the Senate Ag Committee, the latter position he still holds. As House committee boss in the mid-1990s, Roberts pushed through the costly, market-flooding 1996 farm bill known as “Freedom to Farm.”

Other red-hot retirement speculation centers on the reigning House ag chair, Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, for several reasons. First, Peterson was one of only two Democrats to vote against the House call for impeachment hearings. It was a concession, pundits noted, to President Trump who walloped Hillary Clinton in Peterson’s mostly-ag home district by 31 percent in 2016 while he won by less than five percent.

Additionally, the often-droll Peterson sold his Washington, D.C. condo (for $460,000, according to published reports) earlier this year. A sign that he’s headed home next year?

Nope, Peterson calmly explained to Politico Nov. 12. Like almost every farmer and rancher in the U.S. this year, he just needed extra cash to cover farm costs back in Minnesota.

Yikes, and he’s an accountant with a pretty good full-time job off the farm. Have I mentioned that it’s going to be a long winter?

The Farm and Food File is published weekly through the United States and Canada. Past columns, events and contact information are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com.