ASHEVILLE, N.C. (DTN) -- Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson of Pennsylvania, the second highest-ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, said Monday he wants to become the chairman or ranking member on the committee when Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, retires after the current Congress.
Conaway announced last week that he will not run for re-election in 2020.
After a speech to the American Sugar Alliance here on Monday, Thompson told DTN that it is his goal to become chairman or ranking member.
As the Republican with the most seniority on the committee after Conaway, Thompson would traditionally be the next in line to be the highest-ranking Republican, but Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., has said he will be a candidate for the position because he believes a southerner should hold it.
Some lobbyists, however, have noted that Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is in line to become the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., retires, and said there would be resistance to Arkansans chairing both the House and Senate committees.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are speculating that the House Republican leadership might choose Rep. Vicki Hartzler, R-Mo., for the position because the party is under pressure to showcase women in leadership positions.
Hartzler ranks sixth in seniority, after Conaway, Thompson, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., Crawford, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
Thompson said he serves with many fine Republicans, but believes he is the most qualified because he has the most seniority and is now the ranking member on the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee and in previous sessions chaired the subcommittees in charge of nutrition and conservation.
In his speech, Thompson said his vision for the committee's future is to "achieve a robust rural economy."
"This requires the right farm policy for all our commodities, including sugar, that exceeds the expectations of our farm families," he said. "If we can exceed your expectations, then rural America is going to do quite well."
The 2018 farm bill would not have passed if Congress had added proposals to eliminate or dramatically change the sugar program, he said.
Thompson said his first priority in the farm bill was fixing the dairy program. He said he wishes the House Agriculture Committee had jurisdiction over school milk and farm worker immigration issues, but is campaigning to allow schools to serve plain and flavored whole milk from his position on the House Education and Labor Committee.
After the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed, the Agriculture Department required that flavored milk served in the school meals program be fat-free. After that, milk consumption in the schools declined, Thompson noted.
The chocolate milk that students have been served is "chalk water," he said, adding that nonfat milk is "disgusting."
In 2017, Thompson introduced a bill to give schools the option of serving 1% flavored milk, and in May 2017, the USDA announced a rule that allowed schools to receive waivers for low-fat (1%) flavored milk, rather than only fat-free.
In January, Thompson and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., introduced H.R. 832, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, which would allow whole milk, both unflavored and flavored, to be offered within the school lunch program.
Thompson said he wants to "repopulate" rural America, but that to encourage young people to return home after college or lure other people who are tired of city life to move there, it's necessary to have high-speed Internet service.
Speaking to the beet and cane growers and processors who make up the American Sugar Alliance, Thompson said it is important to remind the general public that without the economic contributions of rural America, urban America "would wake up cold, dark and hungry."
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