High Plains Journal: House Agriculture Committee holds organizational meeting, approves rules
The House Agriculture Committee Feb. 1 met to formally organize and adopt the committee’s rules for the 115th Congress.
“I am very excited to get to work crafting policies that will benefit America’s farmers and ranchers with the help of my esteemed colleagues this Congress,” Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, said. “They each bring a different perspective to the table, which will be instrumental as we dive into writing the next farm bill. I look forward to the journey ahead as we work to promote and strengthen rural America.”
Committee leaders on both sides of the aisle said they plan to enact a new farm bill on time in 2018 by the time the current one expires on Sept. 30, 2018, “the first time in 16 years we will have done that,” according to Conaway. Congress was late in completing the 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014 farm bills.
“During the 114th Congress, we laid out an ambitious agenda for this committee, covering everything from the state of the rural economy to farm bill implementation,” Conaway said. “We also recently wrapped up a two-year, top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and we examined the benefits of biotechnology, the future of agricultural trade, the importance of agriculture to our national security and the impact that regulatory burdens, such as the Waters Of The United States rule, are having on our farmers and ranchers.”
Conaway also noted the committee in the last session set out to ensure that all authorizations of appropriations under its jurisdiction are current.
“That may sound like a simple task, but there are currently 73 authorizations of appropriations across the federal government—accounting for almost $650 billion in spending—that have expired or are set to expire later this year. I am proud to say that this committee addressed every item under its jurisdiction,” Conaway said.
The current farm bill is set to expire during this Congress, at a time when our nation’s farmers and ranchers are facing hard times.
With a 46 percent decrease in net farm income, the largest three-year percentage drop since the Great Depression, with no signs of letting up, Conaway said urgency is needed.
“Our farmers and ranchers are facing hard times,” said Conaway. “During the 115th Congress, we will waste no time in getting started on the next farm bill.”
Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-MN, joined Conaway in saying the farm bill was at the top of the list for action.
“I hope we can all work together to get a new, good bill signed into law before the current bill expires in September 2018,” Peterson said. “I think I speak for all of us on this side of the aisle when I say that we want to be helpful and are ready to get to work on this effort.”
During the meeting, the committee adopted their oversight plan, committee rules and the committee staff list for the 115th Congress.
The two leaders welcomed and introduced the six Republican and six Democrats who are new to the committee.
New Republican members are: James Comer, of Kentucky; Roger Marshall, of Kansas; Don Bacon, of Nebraska; John Faso, of New York; Neal Dunn, of Florida; and Jodey Arrington, of Texas.
New Democratic members are Dwight Evans, of Pennsylvania; Al Lawson Jr., of Florida; Tom O’Halleran, of Arizona; Jimmy Panetta, of California; Darren Soto, of Florida; and Lisa Blunt Rochester, of Delaware.
The House Agriculture Committee was to hold its first public hearing Feb. 15 on the rural economic outlook, setting the stage for the next farm bill, while holding a second hearing the following day, Feb. 16, on the pros and cons of restricting SNAP purchases.
Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold its first public field hearing on the new farm bill Feb. 24, at Kansas State University.