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Agricultural News From Washington

Lucas leaves chair, Conaway next up

By Seymour Klierly

As Congress works through the post-election lame duck session, preparations are already being made for the new year and a new session. While the 114th Congress will not kick off until Jan. 3, 2015, the House of Representatives has already announced their new leadership team and committee chairs. This group will lead the legislative chamber for the last two years of President Barack Obama’s term.

After leading the House Committee on Agriculture for the last six years, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-OK, was forced to step aside from the chairmanship per Republican Party term limits. Lucas leaves a legacy of a hardworking chairman that had the most difficult task of passing a five year farm bill through a divided Congress. After years of work, he had to watch as the House voted down the first attempt at passage of the legislation. Eventually, the conservative side of the Republican Party won out and sent two separate bills to the Senate, including one that deeply cut food stamp spending.

While the tumultuous farm bill process looms large over Lucas’ legacy on the committee, he is not cutting any ties with agriculture. Lucas has served on the House Agriculture Committee since he was first elected in 1994 and plans to remain an active member. The congressman also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services as well as the Committee on Science and Technology. While he evidently eyed a challenge to the current chair of Financial Services, Lucas eventually let Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, remain at the post unopposed.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-TX, has officially been named the next chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Conaway represents 29 counties in Texas’ 11th congressional district and is serving his fifth term. He is familiar with House leadership roles, currently serving as chairman of the Ethics Committee and the chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee for General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

After the announcement by the steering committee, Conaway released the following statement: “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.”

In the next Congress, Conaway already has a head start on his Senate counterparts. Under his leadership at the subcommittee level, the House has previously passed legislation to reauthorize the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. The Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to begin the reauthorization process and will also have to tackle reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which falls to the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Chairman Conaway is no stranger to agriculture and will be interesting to watch in his new leadership role. Luckily for him, over the next few years he will get to work on implementation of the farm bill and not passing one.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.

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