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Bishop, Pingree among Democrats seeking House Agriculture seats

With a multiyear farm bill ahead, panel's broad scope makes it a hot ticket

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., ranking member on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said he and several other lawmakers are jockeying for three seats still unfilled on the Agriculture Committee.
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., ranking member on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said he and several other lawmakers are jockeying for three seats still unfilled on the Agriculture Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats angling for a seat on the House Agriculture Committee are finding tough competition for a place on a panel that faces a deadline this year to write a multibillion-dollar, multiyear farm bill.

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., ranking member on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said Monday night that he and several other lawmakers are jockeying for three seats still unfilled on the Agriculture Committee, the panel that authorizes the programs that appropriators fund.

Bishop, D-Ga., rejoined the authorizing committee in the 117th Congress after an 18-year break, having first been on the Agriculture Committee from 1993 to 2003. The lawmaker said his return in 2021 would give him a hand both in developing and funding farm and nutrition policy.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, is also known to be seeking a House Agriculture seat. Both Bishop and Pingree would need waivers from party rules limiting how many panels a member can serve on. Pingree is also a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

It isn’t clear who the other candidates are.

Bishop said the farm bill is such a hot ticket because “it affects agriculture, nutrition, conservation, environment, forestry, almost every element that affects every state. The nutrition programs affect almost everybody in the country.”

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, and work on the new bill is expected to include debates over codifying the Biden administration’s climate change priorities in conservation programs and setting the size and scope of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program.

The Agriculture Committee will meet Wednesday to organize and approve rules for this Congress. Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., said that once the committee is organized, he expects to hold its first hearing in March, after the two-week district work period.

The approved party ratios for the committee are 28 Republicans and 24 Democrats. Thompson announced 27 members on Jan. 16, but he now has 28 members with the addition of Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, who also needed a waiver because he’s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Feenstra was on the Agriculture Committee in the 117th Congress.

But after ranking member David Scott, D-Ga., announced a 21-member Democratic roster on Jan. 27, Democrats still have seats to fill. Scott named subcommittee ranking members Tuesday.

Bishop said the loss of the majority in the 2022 midterm elections is complicating the committee selection process for party leadership. “Leadership is trying to work through it to see how we allocate seats that we have,” he said.

Pingree, ranking member on the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, is also seeking a waiver to stay on the House Agriculture panel. She said she’ll be focused on challenges that small and organic producers face, conservation programs and PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination of land, water and agricultural products, such as milk.

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