What Can the Agriculture Sector Expect from Rep. Andy Harris on Agriculture and BioTech Appropriations

The Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives has named Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1) chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration. As its name suggests, the Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the US Department of Agriculture (except the Forest Service) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Farm Credit Administration.

Harris is serving his seventh term in the House, representing the 1st Congressional District of Harford County and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. First named to the Appropriations Committee in 2013, Harris was appointed to the Agriculture Subcommittee in 2015 and is a member of the Congressional Chicken Caucus. A practicing physician, Harris has made few public statements about agriculture policy.
After the announcement of his appointment as chair, Harris said, “Agriculture is both a critical sector in our country’s economy, and the economic backbone of Maryland’s First Congressional District.” Harris’ website adds, “Farmers must be protected from unnecessary and harmful federal regulations that could hurt their ability to grow and create jobs. The estate tax must be eliminated because families should be able to pass farms down to the next generation without penalty. Private property rights have to be upheld — farmers should not be subjected to harmful land use laws that devalue their property and make it more difficult to do business.”
Harris and four other members of Maryland’s congressional delegation were recognized as “Friends of Farm Bureau” for their work in the 117th Congress. According to Maryland Farm Bureau President Wayne Stafford, Harris and the other recipients helped “to preserve the future of family farms in Maryland, maintain our ability to produce safe and affordable food, and provide resources to assist farmers in implementing environmentally friendly practices.”
In 2017, during a visit to a Maryland pork farm, Harris reassured farmers who were concerned about cuts in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget that would adversely affect both state and local agricultural programs.
“It’s totally preliminary,” Harris said. “It’s the president’s budget … but it’s Congress’ job to appropriate. I don’t want to see any entity hurt in the poultry and agricultural industries. … Don’t worry about the possibility of huge budget cuts.” After the visit, Harris said his office would do what it could to help local farmers and their operations.
In the 117th Congress, Harris did not sponsor any agriculture or biotech-related bills. He did, however, co-sponsor two bills aimed at reducing or ending sugar subsidies and the feedstock flexibility program for bioenergy producers, though neither was enacted.
In the last Congress, Harris voted against both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Acts, which provided additional federal funding for rural broadband, agriculture, forestry, and rural development. He also voted against the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus spending legislation, criticizing the legislation for increasing federal discretionary spending.
Based on his voting record and public statements, it is reasonable to anticipate that for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, Harris will again oppose funding increases and may support funding cuts. After the House markup of the FY 2023 agriculture appropriations bill, Harris said, “More government spending only ends in higher prices for the American people and adds to the inflation problem created by the Biden Administration’s reckless spending. Increases across the board are included in this bill, most notably for the Food and Drug Administration, which would receive an overwhelming and unnecessary 10% increase.  Based on how the FDA has handled the infant formula crisis, it’s clear that strong leadership is needed at FDA, not a significant increase in funding. While there are many things to like about this bill, the total discretionary spending level of $27.2 billion – or an 8% increase over the previous year’s funding - does not acknowledge the economic reality our nation faces.”
“We have to make sure we protect our farmers and protect our poultry producers,” Harris also said, and he expressed support for funding rural broadband, rural electrification and telecommunication loans, and critical research programs. “But most importantly,” concluded Harris, “we have to cut back federal spending so that we control inflation.”
Harris’s name has been in the news recently as one of the twenty House members who initially refused to vote for California’s Kevin McCarthy as House speaker. Harris eventually voted for McCarthy on the 13th round of voting. Referring to the rules changes McCarthy accepted in order to persuade Harris and others to change their votes, Harris said, “Our federal government is alive and well … I think Congress is going to work better.”


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