December 4, 2012
The November elections, along with retirements, will mean some new faces to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. While replacements for the slots open in the agriculture committees have not yet been announced, we do know the following agriculture committee members will not be in office in 2013:
House of Representatives
Joe Baca (D-CA)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Len Boswell (D-IA)
Dick Lugar (R-IN)
Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
The leadership of the House Agriculture Committee is not expected to change, as Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) has been chosen by the House Republican Conference to remain as chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) is expected to stay on as Ranking Member. In the Senate, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is expected to retain the chair position, while there is some speculation that the Republican ranking member may change. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is currently the ranking member, but Thad Cochran (R-MS) has expressed interest in taking over the position. Cochran currently serves as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, but will have held that post for six years at the end of this Congress. Senate Republican Rules limit the amount of time a Senator can spend as chair or ranking member of a given committee. Cochran outranks Roberts in seniority and has served as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the past.
The election will also bring changes to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees. In the Senate, current Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) is retiring, as are Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). Replacements for these members have not been announced. In the House, none of the current agriculture subcommittee members were defeated or are retiring, but there could be some shuffling of subcommittee assignments for the beginning of the 113th Congress.
Now that the 2012 elections have been completed the “lame duck” Congress has a long list of issues that need to be addressed before the end of the year. One of those items is the Farm Bill, which was allowed to expire at the end of September. It appears that the best chance for a five year bill to be passed this year is to incorporate it into the package that is being negotiated to avoid the “fiscal cliff”. There is recognition in both the House and Senate that including the Farm Bill would likely bring between $24 billion and $35 billion in savings that could be applied to meeting spending reductions. However, the prospects of reaching a grand bargain on the fiscal cliff are far from certain as Democrat and Republican leaders continue to posture on how much spending to cut and how tax revenue to raise.
In an effort to spur more activity on the Farm Bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack brought the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee together on November 29th. In addition, agriculture organizations in Washington continue to push for action on a comprehensive Farm Bill before the end of the year. FASS, along with 234 other agriculture organizations signed a letter to Congress urging passage of the Farm Bill. The letter does not get into any policy specifics, but warns of the significant uncertainty that will face the agriculture sector if action is not taken.
On November 15th and 16th representatives from the American Society of Animal Science Public Policy Committee met in Washington, DC. FASS Washington Representatives Walt Smith and Lowell Randel helped coordinate the schedule and arranged for meetings with a number of organizations in Washington. The group’s first stop was with the Animal Agriculture Coalition, which brings together animal commodity groups and other associations affiliated with animal agriculture and animal science. ASAS rolled out its recently completed Grand Challenges documents, along with a report on the Innovate 2012 Conference and recent editions of Animal Frontiers. Representatives from ASAS also met with associations and companies in the retail industry including the Agriculture Retailers Association, Food Marketing Institute, Wal-Mart and Cargill to share ASAS publications and resources and discuss ways how these organizations utilize animal science. A meeting was also held with Bernadette Dunham, Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine to discuss ASAS initiatives and learn more about emerging CVM policies.