The new faces of agricultural leadership in Congress

We are now just hours into the 117th Congress, and it is full of freshman members.

January 3rd marked the beginnings of the 117th Congress, as set by the U.S. Constitution. Sixty freshman members joined the ranks of lawmakers on the Hill, with demographics that include 121 women and 59 African American members.

The Congress currently includes two vacancies. New York’s 22nd district race still has not been called. It features House Agriculture Committee member Anthony Brindisi, against former congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

The sudden death of Louisiana Congressman-elect, Republican Luke Letlow will also leave a vacancy until a special election in March.

The House kicked off business yesterday with the swearing in of members and the official quorum call. Traditionally, opening day is a festive affair with many guests and receptions, but this year, the Congress was split into seven groups to conduct opening business, to ensure social distancing, according to a memo sent to members by House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving.

In the all important Speaker of the House election, Democrat Nancy Pelosi held onto leadership with a tight vote of 216 to 209, just five Democrats chose not to support her.

Once members are settled in, committee assignments will be made.

For agriculture, Georgia Democrat David Scott will step into his new role as Committee Chair and Pennsylvania Republican Gleen “GT” Thompson will serve as ranking member.

On the Senate side, Arkansas Republican John Boozman will take over as Ag Committee Chair, if Republicans hold onto the majority. Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow will return as ranking member.

Full Senate committee assignments are expected to be delayed until the Georgia runoff election is determined.

The January 5th ballot includes Ag Committee member Kelly Loefler against Democrat Raphael Warnock. The second runoff features Republican incumbent David Perdue, cousin of Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, versus Democrat John Ossoff.

Also coming up quickly, on January 6th, Congress will call a joint session to count the electoral votes and officially declare a winner in the presidential election.