FarmPolicy

December 5, 2019

Committee Chairman and House Leadership- Reminiscing About (Wishing For (?))- Speaker Pelosi

Categories: Farm Bill

As was noted earlier this week, National Journal columnist and agricultural reporter Jerry Hagstrom presented a farm policy seminar this week at the Big Iron Farm Show in North Dakota.

An interesting issue that came in the discussion related to the relationship between the Agriculture Committee Chairman and House leadership.

More specifically, Mr. Hagstrom elaborated on the positive and close relationship Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) enjoyed with then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) as he shepherded through the 2008 Farm Bill as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

Mr. Hagstrom noted that during the current Farm Bill debate, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) does not appear to have a similar relationship with either House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) or Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.).

To listen to this portion of Mr. Hagstrom’s analysis, click on the listen bar below:

In addition, recall that Dan Morgan pointed out in his summary paper on the development and passage of the 2008 Farm Bill (“The Farm Bill and Beyond“) that, “After House passage, Peterson spoke effusively about Pelosi’s role. ‘They [Democratic leaders] were under a lot of pressure not to support us,’ he said in an interview. ‘But they had seen the other side, which 80 percent of our members have never seen who don’t know these farmers. She was under a lot of pressure from guys who said we shouldn’t have a Title I. The San Francisco papers beat the hell out of her. I could tell sometimes when I talked to her she wasn’t sure, because she didn’t understand.'”

Mr. Morgan added that, “Soon after the farm bill vote, Pelosi attended Farmfest, an annual agricultural fair held at Redwood Falls, Minnesota, in Peterson’s home district. It featured a forum: ‘The New Farm Bill— Shaping the Future of Rural America.’ If there had been any doubt of Pelosi’s support, Peterson dismissed it in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘She just had a great time [at Farmfest] and her staff did, and they bonded with the farmers and she was eating pork chops on a stick and riding around in an ethanol four-wheeler. And that had a lot to do with her being as engaged and helpful as she was in finally getting the farm bill through‘” (at page 41 of Morgan’s paper).

At page 35 of his paper, Mr. Morgan elaborated: “In retrospect March 25, 2007, was a significant date in the chronology of the 2008 farm bill.
Pelosi showed up at the National Farmers Union convention in Orlando, Florida, to party and rub shoulders with heartland America. ‘It wasn’t just her speech about the importance of farming that won over attendees,’ wrote Congressional Quarterly. ‘The fact that she stuck around for hours to dance, eat and talk convinced NFU members she was committed to agricultural policy. By all accounts, everyone—including the California Democrat— had a blast.’ Pelosi was dancing to Peterson’s tune. But such write-ups were worth their weight in gold. They kicked a little barnyard dust onto her Armani wardrobe, and underscored her interest in rural America.

Pelosi and Peterson were a political odd couple. She was a wealthy San Franciscan and one of the most liberal members of the caucus; he was a plain- talking, Marlboro-smoking Midwesterner, and one of the most conservative. (He opposes abortion and has voted against federal funding of stem cell research.) While Pelosi hit the Bay Area social scene, Peterson, now 65, was out on the Farm Aid circuit, playing guitar and serving as lead vocalist at gigs of the Capitol Hill country rock ‘n roll band, The Second Amendments.

But appearances can be deceiving. Peterson had served as one of Pelosi’s lieutenants in 2001 when she defeated Rep. Steny Hoyer (Maryland) for the position of House Minority Whip, the stepping- stone to minority leadership in 2003 and the speakership in 2006. Pelosi was steeped in the values of political loyalty passed down from her father, the late mayor of Baltimore. She liked strong men as political allies, and Peterson was in a long line of strong chairmen of the Agriculture Committee. (Earlier ones included Rep. Tom Foley, D-Washington, who went on to be speaker, and Texas Republican Larry Combest, who resigned from Congress in 2003.)”

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