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Mike Conaway’s Other Job

As House Agriculture Chairman, Mike Conaway’s chief goal is to shepherd the new farm bill into law and on time in 2018, a harder goal than it sounds, since Congress has been tardy in writing farm bills since 1990. Conaway was handed a large distraction last month when House GOP leaders put him in charge of the House investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I must emphasize that this is a temporary position,” says Conaway, a staunch conservative from Texas. He’s filling in for Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who is resolving complaints about his handling of classified information. Conaway, known as a quiet and diligent lawmaker, is the second-ranking Republican on the Intelligence panel, so it was somewhat logical for GOP leaders to turn to him. By coincidence, Nunes, a dairy farmer from California’s Central Valley, is a former Agriculture Committee member.

“Chairman Conaway’s responsibilities at the Intelligence Committee will not impact the House Agriculture Committee’s activities or the Chairman’s anticipated timeline for writing and passing a new farm bill,” says a committee press aide. The committee has a heavy schedule of information-gathering hearings at present, with the actual writing of the farm bill not expected before early next year. 

A native Texan, Conaway served in the Army and then worked for an accounting firm, settling in Midland. A lower-level member of House GOP leadership, Conaway is a former House Ethics Committee chairman, one of the thankless jobs in Congress. The Russia investigation will put Conaway under the most intense public scrutiny of his seven terms in the House.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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