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GOP Rep. Thompson (PA-15) to Lead Agriculture Committee; Fetterman to Senate Ag Committee

In 2017, Bucks County had 824 farms operating on 77,255 acres of farmland, approximately 19 percent of the county’s land.
Photo courtesy of https://www.nonesuchfarm.com.

What happened:

For the first time since 1853, a Pennsylvania Congressman will lead the standing House Committee on Agriculture. The House GOP Steering Committee announced Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (PA-15) as chairman for the 118th term of Congress. The committee’s first chairman was also from Pennsylvania; Thomas Forrest (1820-21) was a member of the Federalist Party.

On the Senate side, Democrats tapped recently elected John Fetterman to join the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. “Agriculture is a huge economic driver in Pennsylvania, and I’m excited to keep fighting for our farmers and their families,” Fetterman said in a statement. 

Why it matters to Bucks residents:

In 2017, Bucks County had 824 farms operating on 77,255 acres of farmland, approximately 19 percent of the county’s land. Statewide, agriculture accounts for $83.8 billion in direct economic output and 280,500 jobs.

Thompson, a longtime member of the Agriculture Committee and its current ranking member, steps into a bright spotlight as Congress prepares to consider the 2023 Farm Bill, last passed in 2018. “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law on December 20, 2018 after passing by a historic bipartisan margin of 87-13 votes in the Senate (the most “yea” votes ever recorded for a Farm Bill in the Senate) and 369-47 votes in the House.” A notable outcome, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, grown for “seed, fiber, or cannabidiols (CBDs) extracted from the plant tissue.”

Environmental advocacy groups anticipate heavy scrutiny of conservation and climate change issues related to farming by the House GOP majority. The 2023 Farm Bill takes center stage on both topics. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released its four-part series discussing climate, conservation, and their platform for the 2023 Farm Bill.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees also debate budgets for the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Congress appropriates approximately $141 billion annually to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program comprises about 80% of that budget. The largest component of the FNS budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp program). SNAP benefits supported 40,236 residents in Bucks County (6.2% of the total county population) in 2020, up from 33,096 in 2010, a jump of 21.5% in 10 years. 

Background: 

Thompson, a resident of Howard borough in Centre County, represents the 15th District, created by the State Supreme Court in 2018. The district lies east of Pittsburgh and Erie and west of Williamsport in north-central PA. District 15 includes State College and Punxsutawney, home to PA’s famed groundhog. Since his first election to Congress in 2008, Democrats have failed to mount a noteworthy challenger, the most recent candidate did not exceed 30% of votes

Congress established the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862, but it would not be until 1889 that the Department of Agriculture was given cabinet-level status. Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa and former Secretary of Agriculture under President Obama, currently serves as Secretary for President Biden. 

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Blair Haney

Blair Haney

Blair Haney grew up in Newtown and Holland, Bucks County, graduated from Council Rock, and now resides in New England where he attended college. Blair is an avid outdoorsman, public lands advocate, city planner, and runs a side hustle at www.thecamplife.com.

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