California Democrat Jim Costa in Running to Lead House Agriculture Committee

Nov 8, 2020
In The News
Fresno’s Rep. Jim Costa has thrown his hat in the ring to be the head of the House Agriculture Committee in the next Congress, a position with huge influence over federal policies affecting farmers and food supply in the U.S.
The committee’s former chair, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, was ousted in his 2020 election and therefore will not serve in the next Congress. But Democrats will still control the House, so the position of chair is up for grabs.

“Chairman Peterson is a friend and mentor and he leaves big shoes to fill,” Costa said in a statement Thursday. “Not only must this Committee address an unstable agricultural economy and a broken international trade system, but we must also feed millions of vulnerable Americans in the throes of a worldwide pandemic. This is a challenge I am ready to accept.”


But Costa, D-Fresno, is not the only one going for the chair. Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia, also announced that he’s seeking the position in a statement Thursday. Scott is technically next in line for the position as the most senior Democrat on the committee having served on it since 2003. Costa’s first term started in 2005. Costa is next in line behind Scott, but the chairmanship doesn’t always go to the member of Congress next in line.


Costa is a third-generation almond farmer in California’s Central Valley. His district includes both urban and rural areas in Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties where key products include fruits, nuts and milk.

About 25% of the district’s residents are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, which is also under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee.

Scott was born on a farm in South Carolina during segregation and spent his childhood living and working on his grandparents’ farm.

“If elected, I would approach my role as the first African American to chair the Agriculture Committee, and the first African American from Georgia to chair any Committee, with a principled focus on addressing inequities in agriculture and advancing racial progress for all,” Scott said in a statement.

Both Costa and Scott are Blue Dog Democrats, a moderate group of Democrats focused on fiscal responsibility.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and other members of a selection committee, known as the Steering and Policy Committee, will likely make their recommendations for committee chairs in December, and the Democratic Caucus will vote on whether to approve those recommendations later that month.