U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas announced today that Representative Steve King (IA-04 in the new Congress) will chair the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition. King has been one of the loudest critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in recent years. His new position will give him a more visible platform to battle policies championed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack--the husband of King's most recent Congressional challenger, Christie Vilsack.
King opposed the USDA's settlement in the Pigford case, which involved longstanding government discrimination against African-American farmers. He also objected to the hiring of a claimant in the Pigford settlement to a prominent USDA position. Though King has tried and failed to block spending on the Pigford settlement, chairing a subcommittee may allow him to investigate what he describes as "fraud" in USDA payments to African-Americans.
Regarding the USDA's nutrition programs, King wants to spend less on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) than the Obama administration. He wants to overhaul the USDA's new school lunch standards and has sponsored a bill to overturn restrictions on calories and portion sizes for children in public schools. In King's view, "nutrition Nannies" at the USDA, led by Vilsack, have "put every kid on a diet." Vilsack announced earlier this month that school districts will have more time to adapt to the new rules, but he defended the standards as an important weapon against the childhood obesity epidemic. I expect King to hold hearings on this issue in early 2013.
After the jump I've posted King's press release about his new position. He vowed to make sure tax dollars are spent wisely in USDA programs.
Following the 2010 elections, King was expected to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration issues, but House leaders feared he was too much of a lightning rod for that job.
Representative Steve King statement of December 20:
King to Chair House Agriculture Subcommittee
Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King (R-IA) released the following statement after House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) announced King was chosen to serve as the Subcommittee Chairman of the Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition Subcommittee for the 113th Congress:
"I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Subcommittee Chairman of the Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition Subcommittee within the House Agriculture Committee, and I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Lucas," said King. "I have been a member of the Agriculture Committee since I first came to Congress, and I see representing such an agriculturally focused district as a privilege. My district is one of the leading agricultural production districts in America. The new 4th district will lead the nation in egg and pork production and will be near the top in corn and soybean production. It will also rank first amongst all 435 congressional districts in ethanol and total renewable energy production. It is important for this intensely agricultural district to have more oversight in USDA programs that affect our entire nation.
During my time as a contractor it was mandatory that to be successful I had to make sure every dollar achieved the most bang for the buck. As Oversight Chairman I will work to apply those same principles to the tax dollars that fund the programs under the jurisdiction of my subcommittee. Iowa's voice on agriculture will be stronger with this new appointment," said King.
"Rep. King is a strong leader and I'm pleased to have him chair the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition. I look forward to working with him in this new leadership role on behalf of America's farmers and ranchers," said Chairman Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma.