Agency and legislative leadership in 2023: what might it mean for ag?
A new year always brings new leadership appointments. Sometimes those appointments result in a change, but sometimes they bring back previous leaders. As we settle into 2023, we’re following what has changed and what remains the same and considering how leadership will impact agriculture in the coming year. Here’s a summary of what we’re seeing in the leadership landscape.
Ohio ODA and EPA. Here in Ohio, two of the agencies we commonly deal with will have new leaders. Governor DeWine has nominated Brian Baldridge to head the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Anne Vogel as director of the Ohio EPA. Baldridge is from a livestock and crop operation in Adams County, and previously served as a Representative, county commissioner, and township trustee. Vogel was previously DeWine’s Policy Director and Energy Advisor. She has a background in the energy industry and helped the governor establish the H2Ohio program.
Ohio General Assembly. A few leadership changes are also in place at the Ohio legislature. The House Speaker position has shifted to Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitt Hill) following a divisive race against Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) determined by Democrat support for Rep. Stephens. Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) is the new minority leader, replacing Emilia Sykes, recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) returns as the Senate President, joined by Sen. Nickie J. Antonia (D-Lakewood) in her new role as minority leader.
Ohio legislative committees. Most important to agriculture is the leadership of the House and Senate agriculture committees. On the House side, Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) will now chair the House Agriculture Committee after serving as the Vice Chair last session. The new Vice Chair is newly elected Rep. Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland). Both representatives have agricultural backgrounds; Rep. Creech resides on his family farm in Preble County and Rep. Klopfenstein farms with his family in Paulding County. Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) returns for her second term on the committee and will be the minority leader. We await other committee member appointments.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee continues this session under the leadership of Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster). The committee will have a new Vice Chair, Sen. Al Landis (R-Dover), serving in his first term as a senator after four terms in the House. Both have served on the Senate and House agriculture committees previously, but neither are from farm backgrounds. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) returns as the minority ranking member on the committee. Only two additional Senators have been appointed to the committee, Sen. Sandra O-Brien (R-Ashtabula), who was on the committee last session, and Sen. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), serving in his first term as a Senator after two terms in the House.
Congress. As with Ohio, the U.S. House of Representatives endured a divisive race for leadership. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) eventually won the role of Speaker. Less controversial was the election of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to the Democrat leadership position that Rep. Nancy Pelosi stepped away from after 20 years in that role. No changes occurred in the Senate, with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) remaining as the Majority Leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Minority Leader.
Congressional committees. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is the returning Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), is the new Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) remains Ranking Member on the Senate side, and Rep. David Scott (D-GA) moves from Chair to Ranking Member on the House side. Ohioans that will serve on those committees include Sen. Sherrod Brown on the Senate committee and Representatives Max Miller and Shontel Brown on the House committee.
What to watch for?
A new Farm Bill will be the heavy lift for the agriculture committees in Congress. Major conflicts the committee leaders will have to navigate are expected to be debt reduction, climate programs, and the SNAP nutrition program. Despite the upcoming challenges, both committee leaders have promised to wrap up a Farm Bill by September.
Here in Ohio, the budget bill will take priority right away and will involve the new agency directors and legislature. One new ag-related budget item we might see is a proposal by Governor DeWine to increase the H2Ohio program with a “Rivers Initiative” that would address water quality in Ohio rivers.
In the legislature, we expect to see an eminent domain bill much like House Bill 698 that was introduced late last session. One of that bill’s sponsors was the newly appointed Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Creech. The bill proposed streamlining the process for landowners who challenge compensation for land taken by eminent domain, increasing the burden of proof on an agency proposing a taking, expansion of attorney fee and expense rewards for landowners, and a prohibition on takings of land for recreational trails. There was also talk of the return of a “community solar” bill (H.B. 450) in the House, but both sponsors of that bill no longer serve in the House of Representatives.
What other changes might the new leadership bring? That’s always a tough question, but we’ll keep an eye out and let you know what we see as we continue into 2023.