Congress back in town; will disaster aid follow?


WASHINGTON – The 108th Congress came to Washington this week to be sworn into office Jan. 7, and agricultural organization representatives are ready to lobby House and Senate for more money.

Probably the most significant difference with this Congress is that both the Senate – newly under Republican control – and House Agriculture Committees will have new chairmen: Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is expected to take over the chair of the Senate committee, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va, will likely become chairman of the House committee.

Boehner not interested. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, probably could have had the House chair if he wanted it, but he bowed out of contention and backed Goodlatte.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., could have had the Senate chair back, but he decided to take the reins of the Foreign Relations Committee instead.

Goodlatte still must be named by the House leadership, but there are strong indications this will not be a stumbling block.

Outgoing chairman, Rep. Larry Combest, R-Texas, is resigning his congressional seat effective May 1 and decided to relinquish the chairmanship of the committee with the opening of the 108th Congress.

Lots of openings. About a dozen members of the House committee, Republicans and Democrats, will not be returning, leaving those seats to be filled.

Looking for money. Several agriculture organizations are flying members into Washington this week and next to lobby Congress for disaster assistance.

Congress is expected to begin work quickly on the remaining 2003 spending bills that it failed to enact before the start of the 2003 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The hope is that some form of disaster assistance may be included as part of this funding package.

According to the National Wheat Growers Association, its members want to meet with members of Congress and key administration officials to put “a human face on this economic calamity.”

The association said the issue is broader than farming, “it is about preventing the collapse of entire rural economies.”


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!