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Plains States Lose Out in House Ag Committee

12/8/2012 9:05:00 AM/Categories: General News, Today's Top 5, Livestock, Grain Markets

by Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent
 
WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The Plains lost while fruit and vegetable-growing regions of the country won as the House Republican Steering Committee on Wednesday selected seven new members for the House Agriculture Committee.
 
The announcement came a day after the House Republican leadership removed Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas from the committee to punish him for being so uncooperative. Huelskamp, who just won his second term in office, also was removed from the Budget Committee. 
 
Seven new members of the committee come from California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and New York. An aide on the House Agriculture Committee said one more seat needs to be filled on the committee and it will likely go to a member from a southern state. 
 
Huelskamp's departure and the announcement of the new members reduces the representation of the Plains states on the committee. It also leaves Kansas without a House Agriculture Committee member for the first time since the state joined the Union, according to the Hays Daily News. 
 
House leadership sources said Huelskamp had lost his Agriculture and Budget committee assignments because he was unwilling to cooperate with the leadership on a wide range of issues. 
 
In a news release, Huelskamp's office said that he "was given limited explanation for his removal, but clearly his consistent, principled, and conservative votes have riled the GOP establishment.
 
"It is little wonder why Congress has a 16% approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return," Huelskamp said in the news release.
 
"The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP establishment cannot handle disagreement."
 
Huelskamp has been most known for his opposition to tax increases, increasing the debt limit and refusing to withdraw anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage amendments when requested by the House leadership, but he has also been an active conservative on farm and nutrition issues. In his news release he cited "attempting to curb the explosion in food stamp spending and other entitlements" as one of his accomplishments in Congress.
 
During this fall's election campaign, Huelskamp and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill that would eliminate new limits on the number of calories in the school lunches that was part of the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
 
But both Kansas and national farm leaders have told DTN privately that they have worried Huelskamp's priorities may hurt the interests of farmers and rural America and that his election may signal that rural America is out of step with the rest of the country.
 
They have pointed out that Huelskamp's predecessors in the Kansas' First District -- former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Sen. Pat Roberts, and Sen. Jerry Moran -- have been viewed as centrist leaders who have united farmers and the hungry. Most farm leaders view the presence of the food stamp program in the farm bill as a key to convincing urban and suburban members of the House to vote for it.
 
Kansas farm leaders are dismayed by Huelskamp's removal, the Kansas City Star reported Thursday.
 
"It certainly puts our members and Kansas as one of the top ag states at a significant disadvantage in setting federal policy," said Aaron Popelka, vice president of legal and governmental affairs for the Kansas Livestock Association.
 
"Having somebody from the big First on House Ag has been extremely important and deserving because of the amount of wheat and agriculture that come from there," said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission.
 
Throughout his career, Huelskamp has shown an unwillingness to cooperate with Republican leadership. When he served in the Kansas legislature, he lost his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Huelskamp said it was because he opposed wasteful spending, but two state Republican leaders told The Topeka Capital-Journal in 2010 he was booted off because he would not work with the leadership, according to his biography in the Almanac of American Politics.
 
The new members announced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., are:
 
* Dan Benishek of Michigan 
 
* Chris Collins of New York 
 
* Rodney Davis of Illinois 
 
* Jeff Denham of California 
 
* Richard Hudson of North Carolina 
 
* Doug LaMalfa of California 
 
* Ted Yoho of Florida 
 
 
 
© Copyright 2012 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.
Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp
 
 
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