Rep. Jim Costa’s (D–Fresno) bid to become the next chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee gained considerable steam on Friday.
A lengthy assortment of California grower groups and agriculture services associations arrived in full-force behind Costa’s candidacy in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We believe that Congressman Costa possesses the experience and leadership adeptness needed to carry the Committee and its important work forward,” the letter reads.
The endorsement of Costa places particular emphasis on his district – and its neighbors – as the linchpin of America’s agricultural infrastructure.
Costa, who ranks third in seniority among Democrats on the House Agriculture panel, is squaring off against Georgia Rep. David Scott for the gavel.
Current House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson (D–Minn.), one of the most conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House Democratic Caucus, was ousted after 15 terms in office.
Scott has some key advantages beyond seniority (he is one rank above Costa on the Ag Committee). If tapped for the gavel, Scott would be the first African American to chair the House Ag Committee along with serving as the first African American from Georgia to lead any committee in Congress.
He also has the backing of Peterson himself.
However, he would also shift the committee leftward from Peterson’s tenure – opening the door for a progressive-led push on climate change action, as indicated in a letter sent to colleagues.
Costa, on the other hand, has some advantages of his own: beginning with common residence with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
More importantly, his campaign for chairman underscores a roller coaster ride for the long-time legislator.
From the Blue Doghouse to the Gavel?
For Costa, being at the precipice of a powerful chairmanship is a sign of how long a road he has travelled on Capitol Hill and at home.
A conservative Democrat in his own right, Costa and Pelosi had an unusually acrimonious relationship in the early aughts of the Obama era.
Following a Republican takeover of the House in 2010, Costa and neighboring Blue Dog – former Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D–Merced) – voted for each other for Speaker of the House rather than Pelosi.
Since Democrats retook the House in 2018, Costa has found himself in far greater position among the Democratic caucus than other Blue Dogs.
Facing a primary challenge from his left by Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, Costa was able to rely on internal party support to buttress his primary war chest.
One such instance stuck out: Costa winning the vote of neighboring Rep. TJ Cox (D–Fresno) in a California Democratic Party endorsement battle over Soria.
The vote by Cox came in spite of the freshman Democrat’s business partnerships with Soria’s fiancée, Terrance Frazier.
Farmers for Costa
For Valley farmers that long-castigated the Fresno Democrat, he has presented them with a unique opportunity to seize on key issues regarding the industry.
In the Friday letter to Pelosi, industry leaders focused on Costa’s willingness to emphasize strengthening and securing the Ag workforce via immigration reform while having the intimate knowledge of the domestic and foreign agricultural marketplace.
“We have seen firsthand the dedicated work and lasting impacts he has made to California agriculture and rural communities and are confident that he would carry this leadership forward to further develop agriculture policy throughout the nation,” the letter reads.
We have seen firsthand the dedicated work and lasting impacts he has made to California
agricultureconsideration for the role that he is due.