Iowa will have a representative on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee after all. Last week Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat from Des Moines, was selected to replace longtime Rep. Steve King of Iowa on the committee, an important ag policy panel. King, a Republican from Kiron, was removed from the committee over racist comments he recently made.
Axne’s appointment comes after House Republicans voted to remove King from all the House committees he was serving on, including agriculture. His removal from the ag panel caused concern among Iowa ag leaders. While only a matter of days, King’s absence marked the first time in 120 years that an Iowan wasn’t a member of the influential House ag committee. King represents Iowa’s 4th District, covering northwest and much of western Iowa.
Will King’s removal hurt farmers?
Farmers are grappling with several difficult issues in these difficult times for agriculture. This is the fifth consecutive year of low corn and soybean prices, declining farm income, tight margins, and low or no profitability for crops and livestock. Trade wars have reduced exports and resulted in a USDA trade bailout payment program. There’s a new farm bill that’s being implemented, and an ongoing shutdown of the federal government due to budget spending disagreements between Congress and the Trump administration.
The Market Facilitation Program, designed to aid farmers who are adversely affected by the administration’s trade wars, is frozen due to the government shutdown — hence Farm Service Agency office closures.
“Iowa, a leading ag state, no longer has a representative on a committee that’s critically important to our farmers,” said Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, upon hearing of King’s Jan. 14 removal from the ag committee. Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union said, “It’s a terrible time for Iowa to not be at the table.”
However, a few days later, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced new committee appointments. Axne sent out a Twitter message: “Proud to represent Iowa and serve as a voice for Iowa farmers.” Axne will also serve on the House Financial Services Committee.
Axne enthused about ag committee
A news release from Axne read: “Iowa farmers are hurting from retaliation tariffs, a continuing decline in commodity prices, yet another decrease in farmland values this past year, and the ongoing government shutdown. Iowans must be represented and have a voice on the House Agriculture Committee.”
Axne said her priorities on the committee will include ensuring that trade agreements benefit Iowa farmers, opening new markets for farm products, expanding rural broadband access and investing in new technologies that will help farmers become more efficient.
Having defeated Republican incumbent David Young in Iowa’s 3rd District last November, Axne is a new member of Congress. Iowa has another new member of Congress, Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat representing Iowa’s 1st District, which is in northeast Iowa. She will serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, an incumbent Democrat, who represents Iowa’s 2nd District, will continue to serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Communications and Technology Subcommittee and the Energy Subcommittee.
Candidates say they will run against King
In addition to the House Ag Committee, King had seats on the small business and judiciary committees. He was also on subcommittees overseeing foreign agriculture and livestock, nutrition, agriculture, energy and trade, contracting and workforce, and immigration and border security. King was chair of the subcommittee on constitution and civil justice. He served on the ag committee since he was first elected to Congress in 2003.
Two people have announced they will run in the Republican primary against King in the 2020 election. State Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull in northwest Iowa, serving as chair of the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, says he will run for the Republican nomination in King’s 4th District. Bret Richards, a Republican businessman from Irwin in western Iowa, is also seeking the nomination.
King has always battled back challenges from within his party and from Democrats. Until 2018, he had easily won re-election. But last November he faced the closest race of his career. Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten came close to unseating King, receiving 47% of the vote to King’s 50.4% in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 190,000 to 120,000 in the voter count.