Changes Coming to Agriculture Committees; Vilsack Named Secretary-Designate

While there are still outstanding congressional races left to be decided, and the membership of committees for the next Congress will not be finalized for several more weeks, there will be big changes coming to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees in 2021. Although the next Farm bill is not up for reauthorization until 2023, the 117th Congress that begins in January will start the process of reauthorizing it.  

House Agriculture Committee:

Rep. David Scott (D-GA) has been selected by the Democratic caucus to serve as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Rep. Scott will succeed outgoing committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), who lost his re-election race.  Rep. Scott has been in Congress for 18 years and has served on the Agriculture Committee since arriving in Congress. In a statement he released upon being selected, Rep. Scott said that he understands and is committed to preserve the role agriculture plays in the U.S. economy and will continue to preserve the U.S. place as the number one exporter of agricultural products.  

That is not the only change coming to the House Agriculture committee however, as Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-PA) has been selected by the Republican caucus to be the Ranking Member beginning in January.  Rep. Thompson takes over for the long-time crop insurance champion Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), who is retiring and as chairman in 2018 shepherded the latest Farm bill into law.

Senate Agriculture Committee

While the Georgia runoff elections taking place January 5th will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, there will be a new Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee either way, due to the retirement of Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (R), who has played a critical role in reauthorizing past Farm bills and been a strong supporter of the crop insurance program. Arkansas Senator John Boozman is expected to take the lead for Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee in the next Congress. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)is the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Senator Stabenow will be the only one of the top four agriculture committee leaders returning to their leadership positions next year.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

In addition, President-elect Biden recently named former Secretary Tom Vilsack (D-IA) to return as secretary of Agriculture. If confirmed, Vilsack will return to a job he had for 8 years under President Obama and will bring experience to running the department during what even before the pandemic was considered a challenging time for farmers and the agriculture community. Before serving as Agriculture secretary, Vilsack was a two-term governor of Iowa and since leaving office in 2017 has led the U.S. Dairy Export Council.