THINGS will be changing at the House Agriculture Committee — not only with its leader and member makeup but also its subcommittees tasked with providing oversight.
Previous chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) will hand over his gavel to incoming chairman Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas). Conaway has already shown where he stands, having questioned nutrition programs during the last farm bill debate, and plans greater scrutiny of nutrition programs during his watch.
Conaway plans to restructure the committee, making six subcommittees versus the previous five, including a new subcommittee devoted purely to nutrition. Notably, Conaway also has opted to combine livestock and foreign agriculture into one subcommittee.
Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) was named chairman of the general farm commodities and risk management subcommittee, the post Conaway previously held. The committee will serve as the House's key authority for farm bill oversight and rule implementation. The risk management category also includes oversight of crop insurance.
Two newcomers to the House Agriculture Committee, Reps. Jackie Walorski (R., Ind.) and David Rouzer (R., N.C.), will chair subcommittees. Walorski, elected to her second term, will chair the nutrition subcommittee. Rouzer, who won his election to the House on Nov. 4, will chair the livestock and foreign agriculture subcommittee.
Rouzer represents the top agricultural district in North Carolina. He also worked as an administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Conaway said his "general knowledge of agriculture will be an asset" to the agriculture committee.
Other appointments include: Reps. Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), chair of the biotechnology, horticulture and research subcommittee; Austin Scott (R., Ga.), chair of the commodity exchanges, energy and credit subcommittee, and Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.), chair of the conservation and forestry subcommittee.
The House Agriculture Committee will have eight new Republican members, including Rouzer, Walorski and Reps. Ralph Abraham (R., La.), Rick Allen (R., Ga.), Mike Bost (R., Ill.), Tom Emmer (R., Minn.), John Moolenaar (R., Mich.) and Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.).
It is expected that Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) will take over as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee as Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) heads to the helm of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Overall, Republicans will hold 11 seats on the Senate Agriculture Committee, two more than last session. As a result of the new majority, the committee will lose two Democrat seats: Sens. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), who is retiring, and John Walsh (D., Mont.), who dropped out of the general election.
Four new Republicans will join the ranks, including Sens. David Purdue of Georgia, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Purdue will fill the seat of former chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), who retired this year, and Sasse will fill the seat vacated by Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.,) who also stepped down.
As of now, it appears that current agriculture committee chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) will remain in her post and not move to the budget committee.