Freshman U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, said one reason he ran for Congress last year was to return a voice to the House Agriculture Committee from the Big First.
He is that voice.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, announced Wednesday the final committee appointments. Three other freshmen also snagged a seat: Reps. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, Neal Dunn, R-Florida, and John Faso, R-New York.
Kansas had representation on the committee for about a century, until then-Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler/Hutchinson, was kicked off by Republican House leadership in a punitive measure.
Among congressional districts across the country, Kansas’ 1st District is the No. 1 producer in some crop and livestock categories. In the 2012 census, the 1st District had over 45,400 farm operators and over 30,400 farms.
Marshall campaigned on a pledge to try to get a seat on the committee, arguing that he stood a better chance than Huelskamp. He gives sizable credit for his 14-point primary victory over Huelskamp to endorsements from numerous agriculture-related groups.
“We committed to getting the Big First a seat back on the Ag Committee,” Marshall said Wednesday morning. “I’m proud to be able to say today that we have delivered on that promise.”
“I really think we’re going to start doing hearings on a new farm bill,” Marshall said about issues on the committee’s plate this year. Agricultural prices are down, Marshall noted, making the safety net critical.
The committee also will focus on working with a new Agriculture Secretary, he said, and will try to decrease regulations. There will be a big emphasis on trade agreements – enforcing agreements some countries are violating and opening up new markets for grain and cattle, he said.
“We need to make sure we don’t go backwards,” Marshall said.
Marshall has appointed staff with agricultural knowledge. Katie Sawyer, the in-state district director, and her husband are farmers-ranchers. Dalton Henry, his legislative director in Washington, is a Kansas State University graduate who served as director of policy at U.S. Wheat Associates and previously worked for the Kansas Wheat Commission.
Henry “understands trade better than anyone I’ve talked to,” Marshall said.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He welcomed having Marshall “in the House riding shotgun for Kansas’ farmers and ranchers.”
Marshall’s endorsements during the 2016 campaign season included support from the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association.
Richard Felts, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, said the Big First has a long history with the House Agriculture Committee. Former Kansas Congressmen Clifford Hope and Pat Roberts were once committee chairmen, and when they were in the House, Bob Dole and Sen. Jerry Moran were on the committee.
The appointment of Marshall to the committee “could not have come at a more important time,” said Matt Teagarden, chief executive officer for the Kansas Livestock Association. “His input on behalf of Kansas livestock producers will be vital as Congress deals with serious issues including onerous regulations and a new farm bill,” Teagarden said in a statement.
Marshall, a medical doctor, was born on the family farm. The family moved to town, but Marshall worked on the farm and had a job at the local sale barn when in high school and community college. He is involved in a cattle-feeding operation and owns rural land. He said much of his understanding of the business side of agriculture comes from his years on the board of Farmers Bank & Trust. Marshall previously sat on the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission, a board that dealt with endangered species issues.
In addition to Agriculture, Marshall will serve on the House Science and Technology Committee, which has “significant oversight” of the Environmental Protection Agency, he said. That assignment will be beneficial, too, because of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility in Manhattan.
In addition, he is a member of the “Doc Caucus” working on health care issues.