New House Agriculture Chairman Casts an Eye on USDA, Farm Economy

 

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming

Agriculture.com - 2/6/2019

 

The first repeat chairman of the House Agriculture Committee since the Eisenhower era, Collin Peterson of Minnesota says there’s plenty to do this year. It includes closer scrutiny of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who had a free hand for nearly two years in redrawing the organizational tree at USDA. “There is a new farm bill to implement, a growing economic storm in farm country, and the ongoing harm of a trade war to alleviate, not to mention the range of unforeseen issues that will test the mettle of the people we’re here to serve,” he says.

 

The guitar-playing, outspoken chairman circulated a meaty two-page list of topics for the panel to pursue. “Much of the work in 2019 will focus on oversight of implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill,” it said. Peterson has been skeptical for weeks about whether the modestly expanded safety net in the 2018 Farm Bill will be strong enough to handle the farm income slump that began in 2014. The National Farmers Union is prominent in calls for stronger supports. The committee may call Perdue to testify on the state of the farm economy, bring in U.S. trade officials to discuss trade negotiations, review the ethanol mandate, and push for more rural broadband service, according to Peterson’s memo.

 

An active examination of USDA would mesh with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans for an assertive two years of oversight of the Trump administration. It also is a change in tone for the Agriculture Committee, which focused on the farm bill in 2017 and 2018 and raised few questions of the Trump team at USDA.

 

The 2018 Farm Bill overruled Perdue on one point. It reinstates the post of undersecretary for rural development. Perdue abolished the job to create room for an undersecretary for trade. Some Democrats want to block Perdue from relocating the Economic Research Service and the grant-awarding National Institute for Food and Agriculture outside of Washington.

 

One of the few legislative tasks for 2019 is...

 

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