DTN Ag Policy Editor and
DTN Political Correspondent
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Mike Conaway, R-Texas, announced Thursday he would not seek re-election in 2020.
Conaway, 71, had chaired the committee from 2015 until the beginning of this year, and also had chaired the House Ethics Committee. Conaway is a certified public accountant and was first elected to Congress in 2004.
Conaway released a statement Wednesday stating that representing the 11th Congressional District in Texas "has been an honor and privilege that I cannot adequately describe. Over the years, Suzanne and I have been blessed to work with the finest group of public servants. They have served unselfishly in an exemplary manner."
Conaway his wife and family had made sacrifices for his time in office. “While serving in Congress, I have asked Suzanne and our family to make innumerable sacrifices. She and they have willingly made those necessary sacrifices, but they were still sacrifices. The time has come for me to put Suzanne, my children, and my grandchildren first.
“This chapter in our lives has been more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. But all things come to an end point, and my 8th term will be mine. I will fulfill my duties to the 11th District by serving the rest of the term.
“I am proud of my career in public service. As a CPA, I think through things in terms of numbers. Including my time in the military, I will have spent 34% of my adult life in public service. I thank each and every person who has given me a helping hand during this journey, including voters, staff, donors, volunteers and friends. I could not have done the job I have done without each of you. My heartfelt thanks to you all.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said of Conaway's retirement, “I wish Mike and Suzanne well as they look forward to a new chapter in their lives in 2021. He has been a steadfast champion for America’s farmers and ranchers and a fighter for the interests of West Texas and the 11th District. And in the meantime we will continue to work on the interests of rural America through the 116th Congress.”
Conaway held a press conference Wednesday in Midland, Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, Conaway said one reason he chose to retire was because under Republican rules, Conaway would not be able to continue as the highest-ranking Republican on the committee after this Congress. Conaway also lamented the partisanship in Congress and noted being in the minority was a "frustrating experience.
Conaway chaired the House Agriculture Committee in 2018, when the current farm bill was passed. He has expressed his satisfaction with the farm program sections of the bill, but disappointment that he was forced to give up the strict changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, in order to get the bill through the Senate.
The National Cotton Council congratulated Conaway and noted he worked in the 2014 farm bill to make cotton seed eligible for the Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage (ARC/PLC) program as part of a budget agreement in early 2018.
“Congressman Conaway exercised valuable leadership in bolstering cotton’s safety net because U.S. cotton farmers were being hurt by weak global prices and many were being negatively affected by multiple bad weather events,” said Mike Tate, chairman of the NCC. “The entire industry wishes Mr. Conaway and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”
Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania is the next most senior Republican on the committee and would be in line to be chairman. He is followed by Austin Scott of Georgia and Rick Crawford of Arkansas.
Crawford told the Arkansas Farm Bureau in April that he wants to run for the top Republican slot on the committee after the 2020 election, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Crawford said he believed his biggest competition for the leadership role on the committee would come from Thompson and Scott, the newspaper said.
“I wouldn’t say a bad word about either one of them,” Crawford said.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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