A new subcommittee structure would put foreign agriculture and nutrition policy under the same umbrella, as part of broader changes to the House Ag Committee’s oversight of the nation’s agriculture and food policy.

Under a summary of the reorganization viewed by Agri-Pulse, the current Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcommittee would be transformed into a Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture panel. The addition of foreign ag to the nutrition panel’s portfolio removes it from the former Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, which would allow livestock policy to form a stand-alone panel as the new Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee.

House Ag Committee Chair Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., confirmed the news to Agri-Pulse, and said the moves were an effort to “try to do some things that made some sense.”

“Nutrition is domestic consumption or markets, right, and then foreign ag is foreign markets,” he said. “Nutrition is a balance.”

The current Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee is also going through changes. Forestry would become a stand-alone panel, and conservation jurisdiction would shift to a Conservation, Research and Biotechnology subcommittee.

Thompson's previous subcommittee chairmanships include leading the nutrition panel during the drafting of the 2018 farm bill as well as the former conservation and forestry subcommittee during the development of the 2014 legislation. He said his experience with the latter position combined with the issues facing the sector were both big factors in the decision to give forestry issues a stand-alone committee.

“I think it's time that we really laser-focused on forestry,” he said.

Other high-level changes include shifting credit issues from the former Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Subcommittee to the General Farm Commodities, Risk Management and Credit Subcommittee for the 118th Congress. A newly named Commodity Markets, Digital Assets and Rural Development Subcommittee would also have jurisdiction over commodity exchanges, rural electrification and several other issues.

A complete list of former and new subcommittee titles is below:

117th Congress
118th Congress
Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Commodity Markets, Digital Assets and Rural Development
Conservation and Forestry Forestry
Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Conservation, Research and Biotechnology
General Farm Commodities and Risk Management General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit
Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture
Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Livestock, Dairy and Poultry

One lobbyist described the shift of foreign agriculture to the nutrition subcommittee as “significant … particularly given the importance of trade to many commodity groups.”

Talk of reorganization has been swirling around farm policy circles this week. Sources tell Agri-Pulse that House Ag Committee staff circulated the plan among staff Wednesday, with responses of preferred subcommittees requested by Friday.

The changes come ahead of a busy farm bill process the committee is expected to undertake this year. Thompson previously told Agri-Pulse he was planning a listening session at the upcoming World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, Feb. 14-16, and noted Thursday that he hoped to offer a more detailed plan for upcoming hearings once the committee and its subcommittees are populated with members from both parties.

Subcommittee leaders have not yet been named, but Thompson says he wants to do that “soon.”

“I've got a lot of conversations to have first,” he said, noting he has not picked the slate of panel leaders.

Thompson also noted Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, was given a waiver to serve on both House Ways and Means and House Ag, giving the panel a final 28-24 split between Republicans and Democrats.

For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.