New Congress Organizes To Implement Farm Bill

Duane Hovorka, IWLA Agriculture Program Director
U.S. Capitol dome in snow. Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Capitol dome in snow. Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol.

The new Congress convened on January 3rd. With Democrats taking over the U.S. House of Representatives, House committees will see more leadership changes and more new faces than will Senate committees. The Agriculture Committees in both houses have authority over the Farm Bill and most agriculture issues, and the Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees craft the bills that fund federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As these committees work to implement the new Farm Bill and fund Farm Bill programs, we need you to tell your members of Congress that conservation should be a priority. A great way to do this is to visit members of Congress when they are back home. Fridays, Mondays, and weekends are good times to schedule local meetings. Congressional leaders have also scheduled weeks when members should be back home, including February 18-22, March 18-22, April 15-26, May 27-31, July 1-5, and the whole month of August.

We’ll put out specific “asks” as this work progresses. If you need help setting up a visit with your members of Congress or need talking points on a specific Farm Bill topic, contact IWLA Agriculture Program Director Duane Hovorka.

Here’s how the elections affected membership on the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees.

Agriculture Committees

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) takes over for a second stint as Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) moves from Chair to Ranking Minority Member. Half of the committee’s 26 Democrats will be new to the Agriculture Committee, including 11 incoming freshmen. Among the new Democratic members are Reps. Cindy Axne (IA), Angie Craig (MN), Anthony Brindisi (NY), Antonio Delgado (NY), and Abigail Spanberger (VA). Rep. Spanberger was picked to chair the committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. Republicans added three freshmen to the committee: Reps. Dusty Johnson (SD), Jim Baird (IN), and Jim Hagedorn (MN).

The Senate Agriculture Committee will continue to be chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will continue as Ranking Member. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Braun (R-IN) were added to the Agriculture Committee. Senator Braun will chair the subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources and Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) will be Ranking Member on the that subcommittee.

With passage of a five-year Farm Bill late in 2018, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are expected to focus on implementation of the new Farm Bill, trade, and other agricultural issues this year. For more information and a full list of committee and subcommittee members, visit or

Appropriations Committees

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) takes over as House Appropriations Committee Chair and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) becomes the new Ranking Minority Member. Former Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and committee member Thomas Rooney (R-FL) retired, and five other committee members lost their bids for re-election: Reps. John Culberson (R-TX), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), David Valadao (R-CA), David Young (R-IA), and Scott Taylor (R-VA). Eight House Democrats were added to the committee, including Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Florida Reps. Charlie Crist and Lois Frankel, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA).

The Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will be chaired by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA). Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) will be the Ranking Member. Other subcommittee members include Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Rosa Delauro (D-CT), Andy Harris (R-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI).

There were no changes to the Senate Appropriations Committee makeup in either party. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will continue to chair the committee and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) will remain Vice Chair. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) remains Agriculture Subcommittee Chair and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) remains Ranking Member of the Agriculture Subcommittee. Other subcommittee members include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

For more information and a full list of committee and subcommittee members, visit or