As lawmakers in Washington settle into a new year with clear control of both the House and Senate, some of the first changes to take place include reshuffling names and faces on committees of both houses.
Of greatest interest is the makeup of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
Not only new faces show up on the two agriculture committees of the 114th Congress, but new leadership takes over in both the House Ag Committee and the Senate Ag Committee.
While Republicans remain in charge of the House, a number of key changes in committee leadership also is evident. In all, nine committees have new leadership, including the Michael Conaway of Texas, the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Conaway won the job after sitting House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma stepped down as chairman.
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Conaway led the Ethics Committee in the previous Congress and served on the House Agriculture, Armed Services and Intelligence committees. He is credited with helping Lucas craft the farm law and lobbying fellow Republicans to support it.
"I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 50th chairman of the storied House Committee on Agriculture. The work that farmers and ranchers do is part of our country’s foundation. They feed, fuel, and clothe our nation. I look forward to building on the bipartisan work of the chairmen who have led this committee for the past two centuries," Conaway said.
He had previously chaired the House General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee before being named to his new position. Following his appointment, Chairman Conaway wasted little time making his first appointment.
"I am pleased to announce the men and women who will be leading the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittees during the 114th Congress. These individuals will play a leading role in developing policies on an array of issues that are important to all Americans. A fellow West Texan, Representative Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), will serve as Vice Chairman of the Committee. We have worked together for years and I will benefit from his counsel as I continue to work for both West Texas and the nation," Conaway announced last week.
Conaway announced several key subcommittee chair appointments for the House Agriculture Committee, including:
- Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research: Rep. Rodney Davis
- Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit: Rep. Austin Scott
- Conservation and Forestry: Rep. Glenn Thompson
- General Farm Commodities and Risk Management: Rep. Rick Crawford
- Livestock and Foreign Agriculture: Rep. David Rouzer
- Nutrition: Rep. Jackie Walorski
Conaway also congratulated Rep. Collin Peterson as ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. He said he has enjoyed working with Peterson and looks forward to continuing working with him in the 114th Congress.
A native Texan, Conaway grew up in Odessa and graduated from Odessa Permian High School in 1966 after playing on Permian’s first state championship football team. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 1970.
After serving in the Army at Fort Hood, he returned to the Permian Basin with Price Waterhouse and settled in Midland, later working with George W. Bush as the chief financial officer for Bush Exploration.
In the Senate Agriculture Committee, last year's mid-term election created a number of changes with the balance of power moving from the Democrats to the Republicans. Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas becomes the new chairman, replacing Democrat Chairman Debbie Stabenow of Minnesota, who now becomes the ranking minority member.
In other changes on the Senate Ag Committee, newly elected Republican Sens. Joni Ernst, Iowa; Ben Sasse, Nebraska; Thom Tillis, North Carolina; and David Perdue, Georgia, are new faces. Republicans returning to the Senate Ag Committee are: Mitch McConnell, Kentucky; John Boozman, Arkansas; John Hoeven, North Dakota; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; and John Thune, South Dakota.
For the Democrats, in addition to Stabenow, Sens. Patrick Leahy, Vermont; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota; Michael Bennet, Colorado; Kirsten Gillibrand, New York; Joe Donnelly, Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota; and Robert Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania, return to the panel.
Republican senators retiring from service and therefore leaving the committee include Mike Johanns, Nebraska, and Saxby Chambliss, Georgia. Democrats leaving the Senate Ag Committee include retiring Tom Harkin, Iowa, and John Walsh, Montana.