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New Congress has effect on ag

Policy Report: A change in U.S. House leadership will make for interesting debates on the next farm bill.

Bradley D. Lubben

December 1, 2022

3 Min Read
Capital building
CHANGES AHEAD: With a change in leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans will have a narrow majority, changing leadership roles in the House for ag committee debates on farm bill priorities.Tim Graham /Getty images

When the next session of Congress convenes in January, it will face a number of familiar agricultural issues on the agenda, but it will do so with some new faces on committees and a shake-up in the seating order for committee leadership.

Going into the 2022 election, there was widespread speculation about the possibility or even probability that Republicans would win control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

While some ballots were still being counted and a Georgia Senate runoff was still to be conducted as of this writing, the results of the election were sure enough to know that Democrats retained control of the Senate and that Republicans gained a slim majority in the House.

Change in House

With the change in control of the House chamber, there will be a shake-up in control of the House Agriculture Committee. While the two leaders are expected to remain the same, they will switch seats in the new Congress.

Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania will move from ranking member of the minority to chair of the committee, while Democratic Rep. David Scott of Georgia will relinquish the chair for ranking member status.

In the Senate, the ag committee is expected to remain under the same leadership, with Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as chair and Republican John Boozman of Arkansas as ranking member.

While the leadership will look familiar, there will be a number of new faces on the committees, particularly in the House with members who have retired or were defeated in the election (or primaries). Couple the new faces after the 2022 election with the new faces following the 2020 election, and a majority of members of the House Agriculture Committee will be new to the farm bill deliberations in 2023.

The farm bill won’t be the only thing on the committee’s radar, but it certainly will be at the top of the list. And the changes in members and control could substantially change the debate ahead. Scott’s agenda in this last session of Congress included a focus on socially disadvantaged producers and equity in federal farm programs, as well as attention to growing food assistance programs.

Presumed incoming chair Thompson will set his own agenda for the committee, and it could include more of a focus on traditional commodity programs and new program alternatives, as well as a critical review of the same food assistance programs that have grown sharply since the last farm bill.

Partisan politics in the ag committee have historically been less pronounced on the Senate side and likely will continue to be so in the coming year. Stabenow has a history of working closely with her Republican counterpart, whether current ranking member Boozman or former Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Differences between chambers

The differences between the House and Senate ag committees will be interesting to watch as the 2023 Farm Bill deliberations get underway. The last two farm bills faced a much more contentious debate in the House as Republicans pushed for substantial cuts and reforms in food assistance programs, targeting benefit calculations as well as eligibility and work rules.

Both the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2018 Farm Bill were originally voted down on the floor of the House, in large part because of votes from Republican members pushing for further cuts in food assistance. Ultimately, both farm bills were approved with much more modest food assistance changes largely in line with Senate proposals.

That could be the path again this year if the farm bill gets to the finish line, but it likely won’t be before more contentious debate in the House. Whatever the outcome, it should definitely be interesting to watch.

Lubben is the Extension policy specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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