Minnesota's Peterson Takes Over House Ag CommitteeWith control of Congress passing to the Democrats, changes are taking place on key food industry related committees. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte will step down as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He’ll be replaced by Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson. Peterson has served eight terms in the House and is a certified public accountant, one of the few CPAs in Congress. Meanwhile, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who is not known for an enthusiastic support of business, will become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing Republican Joe Barton of Texas. Dingell is called the “Dean of the House” for having served the longest tenure in the 435-member body. First elected in 1954, only one other House Member has ever served as long - Jamie Whitten, a Democrat who served Mississippi’s 1st District from 1941 to 1995.
Meanwhile in the narrowly divided Senate, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is in line to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, replacing Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Harkin served five terms in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1984. He was last re-elected in 2002. On the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) moves into the chairman’s seat, replacing Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Inouye was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962 and is now serving his eighth consecutive term.
After taking public comments, USDA is in the process of changing the make up of the food list for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for the first time in over 30 years. WIC program managers have proposed adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to the list and less dairy, bringing the list into line with recent revisions to USDA’s “food pyramid.” The International Dairy Foods Association took issue with the proposed revisions, especially unhappy that the proposed changes would decrease the amount of milk and cheese that program participants are allowed to purchase and would not allow yogurt to be substituted for milk.
“Our overriding concern is with the overall reduction of the proposed daily allowance for dairy products, down from four to three servings per day for most women and from three servings to two servings per day for children, a decrease of 25% to 33%, respectively,” the comments state. “This will likely result in more cases of weakened and broken bones, more surgeries and more hospitalization in the WIC population.”
The group also noted that the proposed changes “would have extensive economic consequences for the federal government as well as the dairy industry.”