WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2015 – Last week we gave you a look at the new members of the House Agriculture Committee. Today, we present their Senate counterparts, four newly elected Republicans who’ve been named to the Agriculture Committee and will help shape U.S. farm policy for the next six years.

David Perdue, Georgia

David Perdue, 65, was elected to the Senate after handily defeating his GOP rivals in the 2014 Georgia primary and Democrat Michelle Nunn in the 2014 general election.

Perdue was born in Macon, Georgia, and raised on a watermelon, soybean and vegetable farm in Bonaire, Georgia.  After earning his B.S. in industrial engineering, Perdue started work as a management consultant, graduated with his M.S. in operations research from Georgia Tech and eventually worked his way up the corporate ladder to top level management positions with companies including Sara Lee Corp., Reebok and Dollar General.

Perdue set his sights on the Senate Agriculture committee even before his election. In his first public address as senator-elect, he told the Georgia Farm Bureau he wanted a seat on the panel because, “Agriculture is the backbone of our state and the backbone of our country.” The senator has vowed to focus his energy on regulatory reform involving the EPA, taxes and energy issues. 

Joni Ernst, Iowa

Joni Ernst, 44, served three years in the Iowa Senate before announcing her first U.S. Senate run and defeating Democrat Bruce Braley, a four-term U.S. representative. Since being sworn in, Ernst was selected for a high-profile assignment – delivering the official Republican response to the president’s State of the Union Address.

Ernst has born in Montgomery County, Iowa, and earned her B.A. in psychology from Iowa State University and a graduate degree from Columbus College. She has spent over two decades as a member of the Army Reserve and National Guard, and served just over a year in Kuwait as a transportation company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

The new Senator, famed for her 2014 campaign ad that touted her experience castrating hogs in Iowa and her intention to “cut pork” in Washington, told Agri-Pulse that she “grew up on a farm” and “loves to take the perspective of small community farms,” and plans to do so as an Ag Committee member this term. 

Thom Tillis, North Carolina

Thom Tillis, 54, a former executive management consultant to PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM, won his Senate seat by beating incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan, in a hard fought battle.

Tillis was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and grew up in various cities across the South. Following high school, Tillis went to work for an insurance company, later earning his bachelor’s from the University of Maryland at the age of 36.

He served four terms in North Carolina’s House, each won in unopposed general elections. “My history with agriculture policy really started (when) I was in the (North Carolina) legislature,” said Tillis, who served as the state’s House Speaker for two terms. “I brought up my chief agriculture policy adviser — my general counsel here (to Washington, D.C.) — and I plan to treat (agriculture) like the $80 billion industry that it is in North Carolina.”
Republican Ben Sasse, (pronounced “sass”), 42, took over retired GOP Sen. Mike Johanns’ seat after defeating Democrat David Domina in the 2014 general election.  Sasse’s Senate campaign raised nearly $815,000 from individuals, eclipsing the state record for individual contributions ($526,000) set by Johanns, who served for a time as George W. Bush’s agriculture secretary.

Ben Sasse, Nebraska

The newly appointed chairman of the Agriculture subcommittee on Livestock, Marketing, and Agriculture Security, holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard and four graduate degrees, three of them from Yale. Following graduate school, he worked as a private equity consultant for Boston Consulting Group, taught public affairs at the University of Texas, consulted for the Dept. of Homeland Security and served as assistant secretary of planning and evaluation for the Dept. of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Between 2009 and 2013 when he announced his Senate candidacy, Sasse served as president of Midland University, a Lutheran college in his hometown of Fremont, Nebraska. Growing up, Sasse walked beans and detasseled corn at his aunt and uncle’s farm, a time that he says was crucial to developing his character. 


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