Even if the outcome of Nov. 2 congressional elections was fully in line with most expectations, the picture in Washington appears to be taking on a different cast than anticipated even a week ago. For baking and others in grain-based foods, a rethinking of strategies may be in order.

Ahead of Nov. 2, it was a foregone conclusion that President Obama would not have the votes in either house of Congress this coming January to push forward the administration’s agenda. It was, and still is, thought the administration will depend on regulatory mechanisms to effect change. In the wake of the vote, though, and with the election of a small but influential group from the Tea Party, it appears increasingly clear that voices insisting upon serious deficit reduction and smaller government will be louder and more powerful than ever.

Because the deficit is so large and the pool of funding for discretionary programs represents such a small portion of the overall budget (less than 20%, excluding defense spending), government programs may receive unprecedented scrutiny. For grain-based foods, such scrutiny will be welcome for some programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the sugar program. Cuts also may be made that would lessen regulatory burdens. But in other cases, cuts would be unwelcome, such as funding for food safety programs at the Food and Drug Administration and agricultural research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

None of these appeals to those with genuine libertarian leanings. While baking’s regulatory worries remain well founded, no one may turn their back on the legislative process during the months ahead.