WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2015 – The fourteen new members of the House Committee on Agriculture represent a diverse set of interests and career experiences and hail from all across the U.S. In this special section, Agri-Pulse provides you with a unique look at their backgrounds.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-AZ. Ann Kirkpatrick, 64, who was elected to a third term as a representative of Arizona’s 1st Congressional District in 2014, promises to champion bipartisanship, smart energy growth and local projects as a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Kirkpatrick was born and raised on a family ranch on an Apache Indian reservation in the White Mountains of Arizona and attended college and law school at the University of Arizona. After earning her J.D. in 1979, she was named deputy county attorney in Coconino County -- the first woman to serve in that role -- and later served as city attorney for Sedona. Before coming to Washington, Kirkpatrick served two terms in the Arizona House.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-CA. In 2014, Pete Aguilar won election to represent California’s 31st Congressional District in the U.S. House, filling the seat of retiring Republican Gary Miller.
As mayor of Redlands, California from 2010 to 2015, Aguilar started a loan program for small business start-ups and passed a Climate Action Plan for the city. Aguilar, 35, also supported the City Council’s decision to let SNAP beneficiaries use electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to purchase food at farmers markets. Aguilar promises to “fight for critical family nutrition programs like SNAP” and make sure deserving families can buy nutritious food with SNAP benefits.
Aguilar grew up in San Bernardino in a working class family and attended the University of Redlands for government and business administration. Before he was mayor, Aguilar was appointed deputy director of the governor’s Inland Empire Regional Office in 2001 and elected to the Redlands City Council in 2006.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-US Virgin Islands. Stacey Plaskett, elected in 2014 to the House as a non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a wife and mother of five, in addition to being a Georgetown University and American University Washington College of Law alum.
Plaskett, 48, was born in Brooklyn, spent her early childhood in St. Croix and her formative years in a New York City housing project. She served as assistant district attorney in the Bronx, and later as counsel to the House Ethics Committee and to the Justice Department. More recently, she’s been working in the private sector in the Virgin Islands.
As a member of the Agriculture Committee, Plaskett said she would protect food stamp funding, advocate for rural utilities assistance programs, and help farmers in the Virgin Islands and elsewhere export their food and sustain their small businesses.
Rep. Alma Adams, D-NC. Freshman Rep. Alma Adams won a special election in North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District to fill the balance of Rep. Mel Watt’s term, as well as a full two-year term, in 2014.
Born in High Point, North Carolina, the mother of two served on the Greensboro School Board and the Greensboro City Council. The art professor and college administrator also spent 10 years in the state House where she helped pass legislation to match state funds for agriculture research programs at her alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University.
Rep. Gwen Graham, D-FL. Gwen Graham, one of two Democrats in the 2014 midterm election to unseat an incumbent Republican, began her first-term representing Florida’s 2nd Congressional District this year. The district includes Gadsden County, which produces about $100 million worth of agricultural goods annually. During her campaign, she spent several days working at various jobs within her district, including a full shift as a hand on a peanut and cotton farm.
Graham grew up on a family dairy farm that’s been in business in north Florida since 1885.The daughter of former U.S. senator and ex-Florida governor Bob Graham, the congresswoman is an alum of the University of North Carolina and American University Washington College of Law. She also worked on the presidential campaigns of her father, Howard Dean, and John Kerry. A school administrator, Graham lives in Tallahassee with her husband and three children.
Rep. Brad Ashford, D-NE. Brad Ashford was elected to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District in 2014 after serving 16 years in the state Senate. Ashford was born and raised in Omaha, where he lives with his wife. He earned a B.A. from Colgate in 1971 and a law degree from Creighton University in 1974. Before being elected to the state Senate, the father of three worked as a judge for the Nebraska Court of Industrial Relations, an attorney for the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, and as executive director of the Omaha Housing Authority.
Ashford said he was encouraged to seek a post on the House Agriculture Committee by ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota. “He thought the way we were taught to solve problems in our (Nebraska unicameral) legislature would fit” with the bipartisan tradition of the House Ag panel. That encouragement, in combination with the importance of agriculture to Omaha’s economy, “made it an easy choice to be on the Ag Committee,” said Ashford
Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-IN. Jackie Walorski first won a seat from Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in a close 2012 race and was reelected in 2014. In addition to serving on the House Agricultural Committee, Walorski was named chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee.
During her recent campaign, Walorski visited farms in all 10 counties in her district to better understand and represent the concerns of her farmer constituents. Her “Hoosier Harvest Tour” included roundtable discussions with Indiana Farm Bureau members and local farmers who produce corn, soybean, livestock, wheat, and other crops.
Walorski was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and started her career as a television reporter after earning a B.A. in communications and public administration from Taylor University. Walorski, 51, founded Impact International, a foundation for impoverished children based in Romania, and previously held directorships with education and philanthropic organizations. Before running for federal office, Walorski served as a state representative for five years.
Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-LA. First-term Republican Ralph Abraham represents Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, the largest row crop district in the country. A 60-year old family physician and former large animal veterinarian, Abraham was born and raised on a farm in northeast Louisiana. The Louisiana State grad is also an Army veteran and a certified flight instructor.
For the last 19 years, the father of three has lived in rural Richland Parish, Louisiana, on a 365-acre farm with his wife. His son-in-law and vice president of the Richland Parish Farm Bureau, Dustin Morris, operates the farm and grows mostly soybeans and corn. In the interest of helping Louisiana rice farmers, Abraham supports trade normalization with Cuba. He also backs building the Keystone Pipeline and rolling back what he sees as burdensome EPA policies affecting farmers.
Rep. Rick Allen, R-GA. Rick Allen, 63, is beginning his first term as representative from Georgia’s 12th Congressional District after unseating Democrat John Barrow in 2014’s midterm election.
Allen holds a B.S. in building construction from Auburn University and founded R.W. Allen & Associates, a construction management firm. He grew up on a farm in Columbia County, Georgia, and currently lives with his wife in Augusta.
Allen said he is honored to serve on the Agriculture Committee and will “work to ensure our nation's ag policy keeps this critical economic sector thriving.”
Rep. Mike Bost, R-IL. Mike Bost was elected in 2014 to represent Illinois’ 12th Congressional District over incumbent William Enyart, a Democratic House Agriculture Committee member and Illinois Farm Bureau-endorsed candidate.
Bost, 54, is a 20-year veteran of the Illinois House where, for a time, he worked alongside a young legislator named Barack Obama. As a state House member, Bost supported the farm industry by advocating for lower property taxes and ways to reduce equipment costs.
The father of three served in the Marine Corps for three years, worked as a firefighter, and managed a family-owned trucking business. He currently owns and operates a beauty salon with his wife in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-MN. Tom Emmer, 53, was elected in 2014 to fill the seat from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District once held by now-retired Republican Michele Bachman. The district is an agricultural powerhouse, producing over $900 million in farm goods annually, including dairy, potatoes, soybeans, corn, and beef.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, and a current resident of Delano, Minnesota, Emmer, a lawyer, is a former city council member, an ex-member of the Minnesota state House, a one-time co-host of a conservative talk show and a college hockey player (later coach).
Emmer told Agri-Pulse his most valuable skill -- his “ability to build good relationships” – will be useful on the House Agriculture Committee. The panel has a “really different feel,” Emmer said. While members have different political perspectives, they “are there to serve the agricultural industry and the people that make it work.”
The congressman said his biggest concern at the moment is getting Trade Promotion Authority passed so the Obama administration can successfully negotiate trade agreements with Pacific Rim nations and the EU. He said he wants to make sure American producers have “full and fair access to markets around the world.”
Rep. John Moolenaar, R-MI. John Moolenaar, 53, was elected in 2014 to serve Michigan’s 4th Congressional District, the state’s top producer of grains, oilseeds, dry beans, dry peas, and milk.
The congressman holds degrees from Hope College and Harvard University and worked as a chemist for Dow Chemical before starting his political career. As a state representative in 2003, he introduced legislation to help resolve a heated groundwater conflict between landowners and two corporate farms in Saginaw County.
Moolenaar also served a four-year term in the state Senate, where he continued to vote 100 percent in-line with the Michigan Farm Bureau’s member-developed policies. As a supporter of “sound science”, Moolenaar advocates for bipartisan policies that limit EPA regulation of farmers and ranchers. He currently lives with his wife and six children in Midland, Michigan, where he was born and raised and once served as a city councilman.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA. With a promise of greater bipartisanship, Republican farmer Dan Newhouse, 59, was elected to serve Washington’s 4th Congressional District in 2014, replacing retiring Doc Hastings.
Newhouse served in the Washington state House from 2003 to 2009 before leaving to be the director of the state Department of Agriculture at the request of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. He later became a staunch opponent of a failed 2013 state ballot initiative that would have required labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms.
Newhouse was raised on a farm in Sunnyside, Washington, and graduated from Washington State University with a B.S. in agricultural economics. The former president of Hop Growers of America continues to own and operate a farm with his wife and one of his two children. Newhouse and Sons Farm spans 600 acres and produces hops, tree fruit, grapes and alfalfa.
Rep. David Rouzer, R-NC. David Rouzer, a Republican elected to represent North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District in 2014, has a record of public service both in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. A 1994 grad of North Carolina State (NCS), Rouzer worked as a legislative aid and senior policy adviser to the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms and his successor, Elizabeth Dole.
Rouzer also worked as assistant to the dean at the NCS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, an associate rural administrator for the USDA, and a North Carolina state senator from 2009 to 2013. On the House Ag Committee, Rouzer was appointed chair of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, the only freshman Ag Committee member to ever be named a subcommittee chair.
Rouzer was born in Lanstuhl, Germany and raised in Durham, North Carolina, where he spent summers on his grandparent’s farm. He currently lives in Benson, North Carolina, where he owns and operates a business consulting firm and a distributorship which markets environmentally-friendly cleaning products.
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