Peterson names House Ag subcommittee chairs


House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., on Thursday announced the election of the chairs of the six House Agriculture subcommittees following the committee’s Democratic Caucus organizational meeting in Washington.

▪ Rep. David Scott of Georgia will chair the Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Subcommittee

▪ Rep. Jim Costa of California will chair the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee.

▪ Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio will chair the Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcomittee.

▪ Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas will chair the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee.

▪ Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands will chair the Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee.

▪ Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia will chair the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee.

“I look forward to working with each of these talented subcommittee chairs,” said Peterson. “They bring a range of experiences and strengths to their work, and each is focused on how the work of their subcommittee can further our efforts to bring practical solutions to the people we serve.”

Peterson followed seniority by appointing Scott, Costa and Fudge as subcommittee chairs. He skipped over Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who has responsibilities as House Rules Committee chairman, to appoint Vela and Plaskett, and also skipped over Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., who won a seat on the House Financial Services Committee, to appoint Spanberger.

The appointments of Vela, Plaskett and Spanberger all had political significance.

Vela represents a rare opportunity for Democrats to give prominence to a southern and Hispanic member with rural ties. As his official biography notes, “Vela represents the 34th Congressional District of Texas, which is anchored in Cameron County in the southernmost tip of Texas and runs nearly 300 miles north to Gonzales County. Brownsville is the largest city in the 34th District, which also includes the King Ranch, Kingsville Naval Air Station, and the historic Texas town of Goliad. Land and sea ports are critical to the 34th District’s agricultural producers and the region’s rapidly expanding energy production facilities.

“Born in Harlingen, Texas, and raised in Brownsville, Congressman Vela has deep roots in South Texas. His ancestors purchased land from the McAllen family to establish the Laguna Seca Ranch where the first citrus orchard in Hidalgo County was planted. Congressman Vela’s father was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas. His mother, Blanca Sanchez Vela, served as the first female mayor of Brownsville.”

Vela was the only Texas Democrat appointed by House leadership to serve as a negotiator on the conference committee which drafted the most recent farm bill.

The appointment of Plaskett, a delegate to the House, gives rare prominence to a representative of one of the U.S. territories who does not have voting rights on the House floor.

Spanberger, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a freshman who defeated Republican Rep. Dave Brat in the seventh district in Virginia.

In a statement, Costa said that the chairmanship of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee “provides me a powerful tool to fight for our Valley farmers, families, and local economy.”

“As leader of the subcommittee, I will continue my strong advocacy for our Valley’s dairy and poultry industries and work to promote market access and improve trade programs for California and American agriculture,” he said.

“I am excited to get to work, leading the subcommittee to create effective bipartisan solutions to tackle the challenges our agriculture producers are facing in California and across the United States.”

Costa also announced that the selection of newly elected Rep. T.J. Cox and Josh Harder, both California Democrats, as members of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee means that one-third of the subcommittee seats are “now filled by Central Valley representatives.”

Spanberger said she was “honored to be named chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, and I look forward to improving our nation’s conservation research efforts, strengthening our watersheds, and making sure our soil is healthy for the next generation of farmers.”

Spanberger continued, “We must continue to be good stewards of our farmland, because the health of our soil is the foundation for all successful production agriculture. In implementing the 2018 farm bill, we must promote responsible soil health practices that improve moisture retention and grass production.

“Additionally, as a member of the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee, I am eager to consider new and innovative ways to make reliable, high-speed broadband internet access available to more rural communities in Central Virginia and across the country. We must pursue smart, bipartisan policies and programs that improve economic opportunities for our rural residents, and I am ready to begin our critical work.”

Plaskett noted that the Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee “has jurisdiction over policies, statutes, and markets relating to horticulture, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and ornamentals — issues very important to the residents and farmers of the Virgin Islands.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to since coming to Washington to serve as a voice for Virgin Island farmers, fisherman and livestock owners on the House Agriculture Committee,” Plaskett said.

“Agriculture has the potential to be a great economic driver and job creator in the Virgin Islands — feeding our people and visitors here at home but also around the world as well. Ensuring that the Virgin Islands agriculture industry thrives is not only beneficial for the Virgin Islands economy, but the entire country.

“I intend in my position as chair to support my colleagues from around our country who represent the multiple facets of the agriculture industry. … I look forward to highlighting the importance of Agriculture as an economic driver for our nation.

“As the chair of what will be the largest subcommittee on the House Agriculture Committee I intend to use my position as a platform for the needs of the Virgin Islands, as well as maintain robust support for nutrition assistance programs for Virgin Islanders who rely on those programs to put food on the table,” Plaskett said.

A Peterson spokesman said the committee is waiting for the Republicans to make their subcommittee assignments before releasing a full list of subcommittee assignments for the 116th Congress.

A spokeswoman for House Agriculture ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said the Republicans would not announce their subcommittee memberships until next week.

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