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In Focus: Mapping the 2021 landscape for dairy policy

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 25 May 2021

Politically, last November’s election flipped the White House, deadlocked the Senate and tightened membership in the House, leaving Democrats holding majority power in all three.

As the country – including agriculture – continues to work its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the political changes will affect a broad spectrum of policy issues and regulatory oversight impacting dairy producers and processors for years to come. Despite partisan rhetoric, policy-making is off to a fast start.



In this issue, Progressive Dairy takes a look at the makeup of the 117th Congress, listing the leaders and members of House and Senate committees and subcommittees wielding the power to have the greatest impact on dairy. In addition to agricultural committees in the Senate and House, other congressional committees with the most direct influence of policies affecting dairy and agriculture include appropriations (funding), judiciary (immigration and antitrust) and trade (exports). Committees focused on transportation and infrastructure, natural resources, energy will have a say.

In most cases, committee leaders of each party serve as ex-officio members of all subcommittees under their jurisdiction.

Progressive Dairy’s committee lists are developed from multiple sources but primarily through



In the Senate, the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee chair and top Democrat is Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who previously served as ranking member. The top Republican and new ranking member is Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas).


The Senate Ag Committee is evenly split with 11 members from each party: Democrats have three new members and eight returning members; Republicans have two new members and nine returning members.

The five Senate Ag Committee subcommittees have six members from each party. Subcommittees with the most direct impact on dairy include the Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade, led by Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), chair, and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), ranking member; and the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Local Food Systems and Food Safety and Security, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), chair, and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), ranking member. Other subcommittees include: Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources; and Rural Development and Energy.


In the House, Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia) is Agriculture Committee chair, with Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-Pennsylvania) serving as ranking member. They replace outgoing chair, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), who lost in his re-election bid, and ranking member Michael Conway (R-Texas), who retired.

The House Ag Committee is made up of 27 Democrats and 23 Republicans: Democrats have eight new members and 19 returning members; Republicans have seven new members and 16 returning members.

Based on their oversight areas, subcommittees likely to have the biggest impact on dairy include: the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, led by Jim Costa (D-California), chair, and David Rouzer (R-North Carolina), ranking member; the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations, led by Jahana Hayes (D-Connecticut), chair, and Don Bacon (R-Nebraska), ranking member; the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, led by Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois), chair, and Austin Scott (R-Georgia), ranking member; and the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, led by Antonio Delgado (D-New York), chair, and Michelle Fischbach (R-Minnesota), ranking member.


Dairy state representation: 20 of 24 major dairy states have representation on either House or Senate ag committees. Perhaps notable in their absence, missing from those committees are lawmakers from Wisconsin and Idaho, two of the top three dairy states (Utah and Oregon are the other two major dairy states without members on Ag Committees).



The Senate Appropriations Committee is the largest committee in the U.S. Senate, consisting of 30 members. The committee writes the legislation that allocates federal funds to the numerous government agencies, departments and organizations on an annual basis. The committee is also responsible for supplemental spending bills, which are sometimes needed in the middle of a fiscal year to compensate for emergency expenses. The Senate Appropriations Committee is led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chair, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), ranking member.

Twelve subcommittees are tasked with drafting legislation to allocate funds to government agencies within their jurisdictions. Among them is the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies subcommittee. That subcommittee has seven members from each party, led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), chair, and Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), ranking member.


The House Appropriations Committee is made up of 34 Democrats and 26 Republicans and is led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chair, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), ranking member.

The Ag/Rural Development Subcommittee oversees spending for the USDA (except Forest Service), the Farm Credit Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. That subcommittee is made up of nine Democrats and six Republicans and is led by Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Georgia), chair, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska), ranking member.


Judiciary Committees within the Senate and House oversee issues related to immigration and border security.


In the Senate, the Committee on the Judiciary has 11 members from each party and is led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chair, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member. The Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety includes six members from each party and is led by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California), chair, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), ranking member.


The House Judiciary Committee is led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), chair, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ranking member. There are 25 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

The Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee has jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization, border security, non-border enforcement and other issues. There are eight Democrats and six Republicans, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California), chair, and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California), ranking member.


Under the Biden administration, there is likely to be increased focus on antitrust issues, and Senate and House subcommittees with oversight on related issues also fall under the Judiciary Committees.


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) is the lead Democrat and chair on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Sen. Michael Lee (R-Utah) is the ranking member. There are five members from each party on that subcommittee.


Within the House Judiciary Committee, the Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee is made up of 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans. That committee is led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), chair, and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado), ranking member.


In general, agricultural trade oversight falls under the major financial committees within the Senate and House.


The Senate’s Committee on Finance has 13 members from each party, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), chair, and Sen. Mike Crapo, (R-Idaho), ranking member. Within that larger committee is the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, with 10 members from each party. It is led by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Delaware), chair, and Sen. John Coryn (R-Texas), ranking member.


In the House, trade is overseen by the Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee. It includes 25 Democrats and 18 Republicans and is led by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), chair, and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), ranking member.

The Trade Subcommittee is responsible for matters related to international trade, including customs, tariffs, the negotiation and implementation of reciprocal trade agreements, and international trade rules and organizations. It has 11 Democrats and eight Republicans and is led by Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), chair, and Vern Buchanan (R-Florida), ranking member.


Outside of the formal Senate and House committees and subcommittees, the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus is a bipartisan group dedicated to educating other members of Congress and building political consensus on the importance of the dairy industry to the nation’s economy. While it’s called the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, it is made up of only House members. Members can continue to be added throughout the Congress. As of Progressive Dairy’s deadline, membership included 28 Democrats and 36 Republicans.

There are six co-chairs (three from each party), including U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut), Suzan DelBene (D-Washington) and Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and Tom Reed (R-New York), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and David Valadao (R-California).  end mark

117th Congress

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Dave Natzke
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