Georgia Democrat David Scott cleared a major hurdle to becoming the next chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, installing new leadership for the committee as it prepares to begin work on a new farm bill.

A Democratic steering committee chose Scott over California’s Jim Costa in a 32-19 vote Tuesday evening. The two were both vying for the position vacated by current committee Chair Collin Peterson’s unsuccessful effort to secure another term in Congress. Scott — if ultimately approved by the full House Democratic caucus — will take the gavel in January.

Scott, who will be the first African American chair of the committee and the first African American from Georgia to chair any committee, announced his intent to run for the chairmanship the day after the November elections.

Originally elected in 2002, Scott has been a member of the Ag Committee throughout his time in Congress. He currently sits behind only Peterson in committee seniority among Democrats and chairs the panel’s Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee. In his statement announcing his candidacy, Scott said he was born on a farm in South Carolina, and agriculture has been a crucial part of his life ever since.

“I spent my childhood years living and working on my grandparents’ farm. The core lessons I brought from these experiences still resonate throughout farming communities today, and I have drawn upon them as I have fought to support the needs of rural and urban America,” Scott said.

“But, our farm systems have evolved and our policies must reflect and urge forward these changes,” he added. “And I believe that the progress of our nation cannot be true progress if it leaves behind the most vulnerable among us.”

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During development of the 2014 farm bill, Scott took part in an effort that was ultimately successful in killing a supply management plan for milk that Peterson and National Milk Producers Federation wanted included in what became the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers. An amendment backed by dairy processors that Scott co-sponsored with then-Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., initially failed in committee but later prevailed on the House floor. The supply management proposal would become the last major sticking point in the final negotiations on the farm bill. 

Among other things, Scott is known for his efforts to secure funding for a scholarship program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the 2018 farm bill. In November, Scott said those efforts — coupled with a pledge to offer strong support for government nutrition programs — will help “make this great nation better for the next generation.

"The challenges before us go beyond simply fixing the mistakes of past administrations,” he said. “The lessons of the past can inform our growth as we respond to the demands of the future. Each hearing, markup, and legislative action must take a step forward toward building a more equitable, dynamic, and resilient agriculture industry that lays forth a new path for future generations.” 

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