Conaway talks King, Peterson, the border, USMCA
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, recently told journalists that there is no slot on the committee for Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that the district of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., should be represented by a Republican, and that President Donald Trump would be better off talking about controlling the border with Mexico than building a wall.
In his April 9 meeting with the North American Agricultural Journalists, the first since he shifted from chairman to ranking member after the Democrats gained control of the House, Conaway told the reporters he would answer questions rather than make remarks.
Asked whether he would put King back on the committee, Conaway said, “We don’t have any slots. It is up to the steering committee. He has issues that were beyond the committee.”
Asked about how he gets along with Peterson, Conaway said they have a good relationship because they are both certified public accountants, but said Peterson “is in a tough spot. He is in a district that a Republican should represent.”
Conaway said that he would never have gotten the 2018 farm bill done when he was chairman if Peterson “had not pitched in.” All the final titles of the farm bill conference report except the nutrition title were “better” than the titles in the individual bills that the House and Senate passed, Conaway said.
On immigration, the country needs “to come to grips with those who are in the country right now,” he said.
Conaway said dairies in his district need workers more than the cotton industry, which has “squeezed out labor for machines.” Some of his constituents remember the old Bracero program under which Mexican workers came to the United States for short periods but returned home, he added.
It would be better if Trump talked about “gaining operational control of the border” rather than talking about building a wall, Conaway said.
“It is all about operational control of the border, we should not have to apologize for operating in America’s best interest.”
Asked about the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who had left under pressure just days before, Conaway said she had “served honorably and well” but that he would not criticize the president’s personnel decisions because he wouldn’t want anyone to interfere with his management of his own office.
The president’s appointees “serve at his pleasure. From what I can tell she was doing a good job.”
Conaway declined to comment on Stephen Miller, the president’s controversial adviser on immigration, except to say that “the president trusts Mr. Miller.”
Conaway said he hopes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., makes approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement a priority this summer, but he pointed out that she let the free trade agreement with Colombia languish when she was speaker previously.
He said he will leave the decision on when to submit the agreement up to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. President Donald Trump is “well aware that time is of the essence” and has talked about the plight of individual farmers.