Georgia congressman launches bid to lead U.S. House Agriculture Committee

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-GA, shown in a file photo from June 28, 2012, is the new House Agriculture Committee chairman. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A longtime congressman’s reelection defeat is opening up a contest among Democrats for the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Rep. David Scott of Georgia is a leading candidate.

Scott has announced that he’s seeking to run the influential panel after the current chair, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, lost Tuesday to his Republican challenger, Michelle Fischbach. Peterson had served for nearly three decades in Congress and is a fixture in the agricultural community.

Scott is also the next most senior member of the committee, which has jurisdiction over federal agriculture policy as well as school meals and authorizes funding for various government programs related to farming. The panel in conjunction with the Senate also writes the farm bill, the current version of which expires in 2023.

House Democrats will vote the week of Nov. 30 on contested committee chairmanships, Roll Call has reported.

If Scott wins his bid to lead the committee, he would be its first African American chairman. He’d also be the first Georgia lawmaker to lead it.

Scott said in a statement that if chosen, he would focus on climate change and racial justice and economic equality in the farming industry.

“The threat of climate change is a present and growing danger, and we must promote sustainable agriculture solutions that are economically viable, ecologically just, and support the social fabric of our rural communities,” he said.

Scott said his experience growing up on a farm in South Carolina during segregation helped him understand how the farming industry is shaped by policies.

“The core lessons I brought from these experiences still resonate throughout farming communities today, and I have drawn upon them as I have fought to support the needs of rural and urban America,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California also has announced his plans to seek the chairmanship. Costa is third in line in seniority behind Peterson and Scott, and while seniority is a major factor in chairmanships in the House, it’s possible for more junior members to leapfrog into a post.

“As a third-generation farmer, I have the firsthand experience, expertise and passion to connect with rural Americas and lead this committee through the difficult changes ahead,” Costa said in a statement.