The House Agriculture Committee is undergoing a wholesale overhaul with a new roster that is heavy with first-term lawmakers and significantly more diverse than what the panel had when heading into previous farm bill debates.
The committee will have 52 members, only 14 of whom were on the panel when the 2018 farm bill was written. And the roster includes 11 Democrats and nine Republicans who are serving their first terms in Congress, and Democrats still have three slots to fill.
The committee includes several farmers, one of whom unsuccessfully fought the government over violations of the Clean Water Act; a food industry labor leader; a former state legislator who led a successful effort to mandate overtime pay for farmworkers; a daughter of illegal immigrants; a labor union adviser; civil rights attorney; CIA analyst; an activist who helped tenants block evictions; a former TV anchor, and a former TV weather forecaster.
The committee members also bring some sharp ideological differences.
Seven of the committee’s Democrats are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including freshman Greg Casar, who is the new CPC whip. Three of the other seven CPC members also are first-termers – Jasmine Crockett of Texas, Jonathan Jackson of Illinois and Andrea Salinas of Oregon.
On the other hand, three of the committee’s Republican members were endorsed by the Club for Growth, a group that has backed many of the hard-line conservatives that held up Kevin McCarthy’s election to be House Speaker in return for commitments for budget cuts and concessions on committee seats and procedure. They are Max Miller, a freshman of Ohio, Mary Miller of Illinois and Barry Moore of Alabama.
Another addition to the committee, Texas GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson, was one of 16 members of the conservative Republican Study Committee who in 2022 signed a sweeping set of proposed budget cuts, including reductions in farm bill programs.
There is only one member left of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, once a bastion of House Ag Democrats: Jim Costa of California.
The committee members who are veterans of the 2018 farm bill are Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa.; Frank Lucas, R-Okla. (who is technically new to the committee since he is returning to the panel after a four-year break following House Democrats reclaiming the majority in the 2018 midterms); Austin Scott, R-Ga.; Rick Crawford, R-Ark.; Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; David Rouzer, R-N.C.; Trent Kelly, R-Miss.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; ranking member David Scott, D-Ga.; Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Alma Adams, D-N.C.; and Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I.
Here is a look at the committee’s new members:
Elissa Slotkin of Michigan: She’s a former CIA analyst and lives on her family farm near Holly, Michigan, where she spent the early part of her life. Slotkin worked in a family business, Hygrade Foods, which produced the Ballpark Franks that were first sold in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. Ballpark Franks is now a brand of meatpacking giant Tyson Foods. Her district includes the state capital and Michigan State University, and she is currently mulling a Senate bid to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Yadira Caraveo of Colorado: The daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants has been a practicing pediatrician in Thornton, Colorado. The 8th District stretches north of Denver. A five-year stint in the Colorado House included sponsoring bills on cannabis reform and health care.
Andrea Salinas of Oregon: A first-generation American and first-generation college graduate, Salinas' career includes legislative director at the Oregon Environmental Council and serving from 2017 to 2023 as a member of the Oregon House. She was the lead sponsor of a new law that mandated farms pay workers overtime. She’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington: The 34-year old’s narrow victory over Republican Joe Kent in Washington’s 3rd District was called “the most stunning political upset in the country this year” by the Seattle Times. Gluesenkamp Perez ran an auto repair and machine shop with her husband before winning the election. She served on the Underwood Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors starting in 2018.
Don Davis of North Carolina: The Air Force Academy graduate, who grew up working in tobacco fields, has taught national security affairs and leadership at East Carolina University and was elected mayor of Snow Hill, North Carolina, at 29. He served six terms in the state Senate, where his legislative work included issues such as broadband and health care. The heavily rural 1st District stretches east of the Raleigh-Durham area to the Virginia border.
Jill Tokuda of Hawaii: The 2nd District she represents includes the islands’ rural and most suburban areas. A fourth-generation Japanese American, she was elected to the state Senate and served through 2018, chairing four committees: Ways and Means, Education and Higher Education, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs and Labor. She helped pass legislation to designate and preserve Hawaiian agricultural land.
Nikki Budzinski of Illinois: She has a long background in politics and union leadership. She was associate director for legislative and political action for the United Food and Commercial Workers from 2008 to 2015 and later was labor outreach director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Other roles include transition director for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, chair of the Illinois Broadband Advisory Council and chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The 13th District includes Champaign, Springfield and a portion of the St. Louis metro area.
Eric Sorensen of Illinois: He replaced Ag Committee member Cheri Bustos, a Democrat who didn’t run for reelection in Illinois’ northwestern 17th congressional district. He has been a TV weather forecaster for more than 20 years. He did a fellowship with the Society for Environmental Journalists and worked in a communications role for a health care organization.
Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico: Vasquez grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and has worked for several environmental groups, including a stint as deputy director of the New Mexico chapter of The Wilderness Society and deputy director of the Western Conservation Foundation in the federal lands department. New Mexico’s 2nd District is the fifth largest in the nation, spanning the southern half of the state and the southwestern quarter of Albuquerque.
Jasmine Crockett, Texas: The civil rights attorney in Dallas won election to the Texas House and was treasurer of the Texas Caucus on Climate, Energy, and the Environment. She’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The heavily urban 30th District includes much of central and south Dallas.
Jonathan Jackson: The son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, he succeeded House Ag Committee member Bobby Rush, who retired after three decades representing the Chicago area in Illinois’ 1st District. Jackson has been an investment analyst and university finance professor. He also has been a national spokesperson for the Rainbow PUSH organization. He’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Greg Casar of Texas: A son of Mexican immigrants, Casar served nine years on the Austin City Council and authored paid sick leave measures that were enacted in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. He also worked to increase the minimum wage in Austin from $7.25 to $15 an hour and has organized tenants to block evictions. He'll be a whip this term for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The 35th District covers a majority of Austin and surrounding suburbs.
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John Rose of Tennessee: The eighth-generation farmer is starting his third term in the House. He grew up on a farm that was settled in 1790 in central Tennessee and lives in Cookeville, where he owns an information technology business. In 2019, he joined Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, in delaying enactment of a disaster aid package that included funding for agricultural losses.
Ronny Jackson of Texas: Represents a sprawling and heavily agricultural district that runs from the New Mexico border across the Texas Panhandle to the outer Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. But Jackson was one of 16 Republican Study Committee members who last year signed a proposal calling for deep cuts in farm programs. The former Navy doctor and White House physician defeated a GOP rival backed by farm groups to win the nomination for the seat in 2020.
Nick Langworthy of New York: Representing the primarily rural 23rd District in upstate New York, Langworthy was the youngest chair of the New York State Republican Committee. He has worked on an array of conservative campaigns and staffs, including former President Donald Trump’s transition team. He also founded a polling firm, Liberty Opinion Research.
Marc Molinaro of New York: His political career began in 1995 when he was elected the youngest mayor in the U.S. at 19 years old to lead the city of Tivoli. He was reelected five times as mayor, served in the New York State Assembly and ran for governor against incumbent Andrew Cuomo in 2018 but got just 36% of the vote. He advocated for Open Space Protection and Farmland Preservation programs.
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Monica De La Cruz of Texas: She is the first Republican to represent the 15th District — which stretches north and south near San Antonio — since its creation in 1903. She is the granddaughter of a Mexican farmworker, has owned multiple small businesses, and is an insurance agent. Her priority issues include border security, improving health care access and strengthening the economy.
Mark Alford of Missouri: The former TV reporter and anchor spent more than 28 years behind the camera, including 23 years at WDAF-TV in Kansas City. The 4th District represents west-central Missouri from Columbia to the southern suburbs and a sliver of Kansas City, including some prime farmland. He is a native of the Houston area, where his father was an agriculture teacher.
Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon: The first female Republican to win a House seat in Oregon co-owns an anesthesia management company with her husband. Oregon’s 5th District represents a portion of the agriculture-rich Willamette Valley and was previously represented by Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate Democrat who lost his primary race in 2022. Chavez-DeRemer was a member of 4-H and showed lambs growing up.
John Duarte of California: The pistachio farmer and nurseryman in California’s Central Valley won one of the closest House races in the nation with 50.2% of the vote against Democrat Adam Gray. Duarte and his company, Duarte Nursery Inc., agreed to pay $1.1 million in civil penalties and mitigation for 22 acres after he was accused of illegally breaking up land, disturbing wetlands and streams protected under the Clean Water Act.
Max Miller of Ohio: From serving as a Marine to multiple appointments in the Trump administration, Miller has consistently been involved in conservative politics. He grew up in northeast Ohio’s seventh district, where he will represent the largely rural area. Miller was endorsed by the Club for Growth.
Zach Nunn of Iowa: The combat veteran, father of six and former Iowa House and Senate member once received the General O’Malley “Best in the Air Force” Award for lifesaving support while in the line of duty. Nunn unseated former House Ag member Cindy Axne in 2022 to win the 3rd District, which includes the metropolitan Des Moines area as well as rural counties in southwestern Iowa. The Nunn family’s Century Farm has been in the family for six generations and over 100 years, growing corn and soybeans and raising livestock.
Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin: He had a 26-year career as a Navy SEAL, after which he acted in three movies, wrote two books, and went to law school. He attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally on the National Mall, but he says he never entered the Capitol. Van Orden lives on a hobby farm in Butternut, Wisconsin, where he and his wife opened the Butternut Cafe in 2017. Dairy production is big in the 3rd District in western Wisconsin. The seat had been held by Democrat Rep. Ron Kind since 1997.
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