WASHINGTON—The U.S. House Democratic caucus on Thursday ratified Rep. David Scott’s selection to chair the Agriculture Committee, making him the first African American and the first Georgian to lead the panel.
“I was born on my grandparents’ farm in rural Aynor, South Carolina, during the days of segregation, and the hardships, of those, on whose shoulders I now stand,” Scott said in a statement. “I owe this historic selection as the first African American Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee to a diverse coalition of members from across our nation.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Scott’s position Thursday, along with other committee leaders.
“With their gavels, our brilliant chairs will harness their diversity of backgrounds and experiences to unify our Caucus as our House Majority, in partnership with the Democratic Biden-Harris Administration, continues to work together to deliver results For The People,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which makes recommendations on committee leadership, had voted on Wednesday for Scott over Rep. Jim Costa, (D-Calif.), 32-19. Scott’s tenure will start in January for the 117th Congress.
The Agriculture Committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is tasked with crafting the farm bill every five years, among other federal agriculture policies such as school meals and water conservation. The next farm bill is due in 2023.
Scott, who grew up during the era of Jim Crow segregation laws, said he wants to focus on how climate change is a threat to the farming industry and also work to bring economic equity to farmers.
“I will use this critical opportunity to represent the values of our entire caucus and advance our priorities for trade, disaster aid, climate change, sustainable agriculture, SNAP, crop insurance, small family farms, specialty crops, and rural broadband,” he said. “The fault lines dividing our rural and urban communities are running deep, and climate change is now threatening our nation’s food supply.”
Scott will replace longtime Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat who lost his re-election race to Rep.-elect Michelle Fischbach, a Republican. Peterson was first elected in 1990.
On the GOP side, Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, was chosen by his party Thursday to serve as the committee’s ranking minority member. The top Republican, Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, is retiring.
Thompson said in a statement that he comes from a long line of dairy farmers and was humbled to be chosen to lead Republicans on the panel.
“The challenges ahead of us are considerable, but we will continue to put farm families first and ensure our country has the most safe and affordable food supply chain on the planet,” he said.
Retired dairy farmer and Examiner contributor Jim Goodman notes that Scott has spent a lot of his time on the ag committee working on de-regulatory issues on derivatives trading. “Seems those sorts of bills have more impact on Wall Street balance sheets than on the balance sheets of farmers, ranchers and fishermen,” Goodman says.
“He does recognize the negative impacts that climate change and racism have had on rural communities,” Goodman adds. “So I hope he is more open to working with farmers, fishermen and their local communities who have never been represented by the ‘get big or get out’ policies that have been front and center at USDA for far too long.”
Ruth Conniff contributed reporting from Wisconsin.