Fresno Bee: Chicken? Yup, there’s now a congressional caucus for that

Mar 11, 2015
In The News

There’s the well-known Tea Party Caucus, the popular Congressional Wine Caucus and, with just seven members, the obscure Potato Caucus.

Don’t forget the Motorcycle Caucus, the Senate Diabetes Caucus or the Congressional Cement Caucus.

How about tennis? There’s a caucus for that. Soccer? That, too. Shellfish? Yup.

In fact, it seems there’s a caucus for just about everything. This Congress, there’s more than 250.

So it’s not surprising that on Tuesday Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat, joined with Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican, to announce formation of the Congressional Chicken Caucus.

Costa says the poultry industry plays “a critical role in the economy” of his 16th Congressional District, which covers all of Merced and parts of Madera and Fresno counties.

“We are home to the largest poultry processor in the west and the fifth-largest in the country, which provides nearly 5,000 district jobs,” Costa said in a statement. That would be Livingston-based Foster Farms.

This new caucus, Costa and Womack say, will help push issues important to the nation’s chicken industry. How, exactly? Expect chicken-related Capitol Hill briefings and meetings where members kibitz about all things poultry.

Now that Costa’s added chicken, his caucus plate is getting pretty full.

Last summer, he joined with Rep. Rick Crawford, another Arkansas Republican, to form the Congressional Rodeo Caucus. It currently has three members, of which Costa and Crawford are two.

By comparison, the Wine Caucus — which former Congressman George Radanovich helped revive and at one time chaired — has 106 members. That is still below its heyday of eight or nine years ago, when it had 250 members and was one of the largest caucuses on Capitol Hill.

Costa is also co-chair of caucuses on modern agriculture, natural gas, Portuguese (along with Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and two others), victims’ rights, farmer cooperative and specialty crops, as well as the centrist Blue Dog Coalition.

And that doesn’t even count the caucuses where he’s simply a member.