WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. 112th Congress was called into session the week of Jan. 3, bringing with it new leadership at the U.S. House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over agriculture-related policies and programs, said the National Association of Wheat Growers on Jan. 7.

As part of leadership elections, Oklahoma Republican Representative Frank Lucas was officially selected on as the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Lucas, who will be the first House Agriculture Committee chairman from his home state, is a strong supporter of many aspects of farm policy, particularly safety net programs and the various conservation programs that help producers maintain their land.

“As a student of agriculture economics, a rancher by trade, and a member of this committee from the start of my service in Congress, I am honored to have this opportunity and responsibility,” he said in a statement released after his official selection.

Saying “[w]e must work our way out of this budget mess and rein in wasteful spending,” Lucas also expressed support for farm policy, comparing its importance to that of national defense.

He also expressed strong support for three long-pending free trade agreements — with Korea, Panama and Colombia — as well as for opening other trade opportunities, and he said it is “imperative” to prevent environmental regulations that stymie economic activity in rural America.

Lucas also announced this week the subcommittee chairmen for his Committee, including:

Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson (Pennsylvania), Conservation, Energy and Forestry;
Representative Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska), Department Operations, Oversight and Credit;
Representative Michael Conaway (Texas), General Farm Commodities;
Representative Tom Rooney (Florida), Livestock, Dairy and Poultry;
Representative Jean Schmidt (Ohio), Nutrition and Horticulture; and
Representative Timothy Johnson (Illinois), Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture.
Lucas will serve as an ex officio member on all subcommittees, and Representative Bob Goodlatte (Virgina) will serve as committee vice-chairman.

Lucas also announced new Republican members of the committee, to include: Representative Rick Crawford (Arkansas); Representative Scott DesJarlais (Tennessee) Representative Renee Ellmers (North Carolina); Representative Stephen Fincher (Tennessee); Representative Bob Gibbs (Ohio); Representative Chris Gibson (New York); Representative Vicky Hartzler (Missouri); Representative Tim Huelskamp (Kansas); Representative Randy Hultgren (Illinois); Representative Reid Ribble (Wisconsin); Representative Martha Roby (Alabama); Representative Bobby Schilling (Illinois); Representative Austin Scott (Georgia); Representative Steve Southerland (Florida); Representative Marlin Stutzman (Indiana); and Representative Scott Tipton (Colorado).

House Democrats have not yet announced their full Agriculture Committee roster, but Representative Collin Peterson (Minnesota), the former chairman, will be the new ranking member.

The Senate has also not yet finalized its committee structures, and official word won’t come until after the chamber reconvenes from a Martin Luther King Day recess on Jan. 25.

Still, it is widely expected that Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow will be the next head of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee following the now-former Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (Arkansas) election defeat and decisions by a number of senior Democrats to keep their existing chairmanships.

In a statement issued when it became clear she would be taking the chairmanship, in November, Stabenow said she is “ready to lead” the committee, which has jurisdiction over an area of importance for her home state’s economy.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as we begin writing a new farm bill that once again recognizes the importance of America’s agricultural economy and rural communities,” she said.

Though less known to wheat producers, Stabenow has a deep agriculture background and has served on the agriculture committees in the Michigan legislature, U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

Stabenow is an ardent supporter of agricultural research, with the Wheat and Barley Protection Act of 1997 being her first bill in Congress as a Member of the House. NAWG staff has also worked extensively with Stabenow and her staff on efforts to make climate change proposals in Congress workable for agriculture producers.