Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry 1825-1998

Expand Messages
  • Ram Lau
    This is a free book available on Government Printing Office s domain: http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate/sen_agriculture/index.html Attached is the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 18, 2006
      This is a free book available on Government Printing Office's domain:


      Attached is the first chapter of the book.


      Chapter 1: The Committee is Created: 1825-1857

      The first permanent Senate committees were established in the 14th
      Congress of 1816, during the last year of President James Madison's
      second term. Prior to 1816, the Senate had not considered it necessary
      to create permanent or standing committees to consider legislative
      matters. In the opinion of many, the smaller size of the Senate in
      those days made it unnecessary to create permanent working groups.
      Senators met as needed to discuss issues at their desks in the Senate
      chamber. In addition, some Members believed the Constitution did not
      empower the Senate to create standing committees. Work was often done
      as a "Committee of the Whole" Senate. As a result, prior to 1816,
      Senators created only select, or temporary, committees to consider
      legislation. These panels, limited in their assigned tasks, expired
      when the project was completed. (George Lee Robinson, "The Development
      of the Senate Committee System," Ph.D. Dissertation, New York
      University, 1955, p. 21.)

      By 1816, the model of using select committees or the whole Senate to
      consider pending business had become unworkable. The nation was
      experiencing rapid growth and federal laws were growing in number and
      complexity. Legislators realized that the tasks they faced could not
      be solved within the limited time allotted to a select committee or
      even a single Congress. A growing need for permanent legislative
      committees devoting continuing attention to important legislative
      matters, such as appropriating funds, became apparent. Consequently,
      on December 10, 1816, the Senate established 11 standing legislative
      committees, adding a twelfth committee one week later on December 18.
      (Walter Kravitz, "Evolution of the Senate's Committee System" In:
      "Changing Congress: The Committee System," Annals of the American
      Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol., 411, January 1974, p. 28.)

      In the first two decades of the 19th century, several new frontier
      States were added to the Union including Alabama, Maine and Missouri.
      These and other newly admitted States caused the Senate to focus
      greater attention on agricultural issues, as the economies in these
      States were primarily dependent upon agriculture. This effect became
      apparent sooner in the House of Representatives, which considered a
      request for a "Society of Agriculture," in 1797. The House created a
      standing Committee on Agriculture in 1820.

      Then, on December 9, 1825, the Senate, by a vote of 22-14, approved a
      resolution creating a standing Committee on Agriculture. (Register of
      Debates in Congress, December 9, 1825, p. 5) This was the first new
      standing Committee created after the establishment of the first 12
      committees in 1816. The debate surrounding its creation reveals the
      all-encompassing but poorly understood role of agriculture in 19th
      century America.

      The Committee on Agriculture was created during debate on dividing the
      Committee on Commerce and Manufactures. By the mid-1820s, one of the
      original standing committees created in 1816, the Committee on
      Commerce and Manufactures, became mired in controversy over the issue
      of tariffs. American businesses and manufacturing interests were often
      at odds, as were committee members, leading to frequent stalemates
      over important issues. With a total population of over nine million,
      most of whom were connected to agriculture, the country was slowly
      recovering from the Panic of 1819-22. In addition, the country was
      feeling the impact of the high Tariff of 1816, which included
      protections for wool, sugar, hemp and flax. (U.S. Department of
      Agriculture Website, www.usda.gov/history of American agriculture) By
      1825, some Members felt the committee should be divided into separate
      Committees on Commerce and Manufactures to avoid continuing conflict
      over tariff policy inherent in the existing Committee. On December 7,
      1825, Senator Mahlon Dickerson of New Jersey submitted a resolution
      equally dividing the two committees.

      During the debate on Senator Dickerson's resolution, it occurred to
      Senator William Findlay, a Republican from Pennsylvania, that he could
      solve another problem he faced. Rising during the debate, Senator
      Findlay pointed out that while commerce and manufacturing were two
      equal components of the American economy, like a three-legged stool,
      there was one other important segment being left out. He proposed an
      amendment to the measure before the Senate to create a Committee on
      Agriculture in addition to separate committees on Commerce and
      Manufactures. Asking what sort of issues would be referred to such a
      committee, several Senators rose to debate the amendment. Some even
      wondered if the Senate had jurisdiction to govern agriculture outside
      the ten square miles of the District of Columbia, much less for the
      nation as a whole.

      Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina, though opposed to Dickerson's
      resolution separating the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures,
      considered the addition of an Agriculture Committee a wise action.
      Such a committee, he claimed, would combine the major economic
      interests of the country in a single place and allow for coordinated
      economic policies. Senator John Rowan of Kentucky opposed including
      agriculture among standing committees because he felt that agriculture
      was outside "the scope of the powers" of the Senate.

      Senator John Holmes of Maine responded that before a Committee on
      Agriculture could be established, some notion of its duties should be
      outlined. He for one, was uncertain that such a committee would have
      sufficient jurisdiction to justify its creation. He contended that
      most matters under the jurisdiction of such a panel could be handled
      within the existing committee system. The issue was not one of the
      importance of agriculture, he claimed, but of the manner in which the
      Senate considered the subject. (Register of Debates, December 7, 1825,
      pp. 2-4)

      These concerns caused Senator Findlay's amendment to fail on a voice
      vote. Consequently, on the Senate's next day of session, December 9,
      Senator Findlay submitted a resolution providing for the creation of a
      standing Committee on Agriculture. He argued that agriculture was one
      of "three great branches of domestic industry" along with commerce and
      manufacturing. All three, he claimed, were equally entitled to the
      care and protection of the Government. He contended further that
      agricultural interests were distinct and not always best served when
      included with those of commerce. Senator Findlay opined that certain
      laws might operate to the benefit of commerce and depress agriculture.
      (Register of Debates, December 9, 1825)

      Responding to concerns about the unique functions of an Agriculture
      Committee, Senator Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire, a supporter of the
      resolution, laid out its justification:

      "[I] would suggest, that all questions of direct taxes on land; all
      internal duties and excises; and all imposts, no less than questions
      of foreign and internal commerce, have a powerful, and, often, an
      immediate influence on the interests of agriculture. And, in a
      territory like ours, of between two and three millions of square
      miles; with two-thirds of its population exclusively engaged in
      agriculture; with annual exports from agriculture of about forty
      millions; and with, probably, fifteen millions of our duties paid, in
      the end, by the tillers of the soil, who consume, and not by the
      merchants, who import-it is impossible not to find subjects peculiarly
      proper, in some stage of their progress through this House, to be
      referred to such a committee." (Register of Debates, December 9, 1825,
      p. 6.)

      Agriculture in the early 19th century was certainly intertwined with
      other great issues of commerce and the economy. Agricultural trade
      occupied an important segment of the American economy from the
      earliest colonial years.(U.S. Senate, The United States Senate:
      1787-1801, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1961, p.
      316). In fact, one reason for the colonization of the New World by
      Europeans had been to obtain a fresh source of raw materials and
      agricultural products, while developing new markets for manufactured
      goods. Trade was integral to the growth of the American colonies and,
      as early as the 1770s, colonists were debating free versus
      protectionist trade policies.

      Many other issues--including federal lands policy, monetary affairs,
      internal improvements such as canals (the Erie Canal had just opened),
      and roads to transport farm goods--touched both directly and
      indirectly on the Nation's agricultural interests. Though
      agriculture's place in the economy was not in dispute, in 1825 its
      potential place in the Senate's standing committee system was a matter
      of considerable debate.

      Senator Findlay replied to those gathered to hear the debate on
      December 7, 1825, that a new Agriculture Committee could have
      substantial jurisdiction over issues that naturally involved
      agriculture. And when pressed for what specific bills might be
      referred to the new committee, Senator Findlay had a ready example. He
      suggested that perhaps a duty on foreign spirits might arise and need
      attention. In a new nation lacking in infrastructure, farmers often
      converted their wheat or corn crop to whiskey, which allowed them to
      add value to their product while at the same time reducing the size
      and weight problems associated with moving crops to market.

      Late on Friday, December 9, 1825, the Senate, on a vote of 22 to 14,
      voted to create the three new committees and the Committee on
      Agriculture was born. It was not until six weeks later that Senator
      Findlay revealed his initial motive for creating the committee.
      Senator Findlay's colleague, William Marks, the junior Senator from
      Pennsylvania, introduced a petition from Pennsylvania farmers asking
      that the Congress place a duty on imports of alcoholic spirits. (A
      Report by Senator William Findlay of Pennsylvania to Prohibit the
      Importation of Foreign Spirits, 19th Congress, 1st Session, Report
      Number 65, March 21, 1826, Microfiche in Library of the Senate, U.S.
      Capitol, Washington, D.C.) When it was suggested that the petition
      affected revenue to the Treasury, a request was made that the matter
      be referred to the Finance Committee. At that point, Senator Findlay,
      now the first Chairman of the new Agriculture Committee, rose to
      explain that since the matter was agricultural in nature, his new
      committee should consider the petition. The petition, after some
      debate, was referred to his committee. Thus, by creating a Committee
      on Agriculture, Senator Findlay took control of an issue important to
      his Pennsylvania farm constituents.

      During that first session of the 19th Congress, which lasted from
      December 5, 1825 to May 22, 1826, a total of two bills were referred
      to the new Agriculture committee. The first was the spirits import
      duty bill discussed above. The second bill also concerned an
      agricultural trade issue; repeal of the duty on imported salt, used by
      farmers to dry and preserve meat and tan hides. (A Report by Senator
      Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire to Provide for the Repeal of the Import
      Duties on Salt, 19th Congress, 1st Session, Report Number 61, March
      17, 1826, Microfiche in Library of the Senate, U.S. Capitol,
      Washington, D.C.) While farmers had earlier asked that the duty on
      alcoholic spirits be raised to reduce imports, they were now asking
      that the import duty on salt be reduced to increase supplies. This
      time the Finance Committee was not so easily prevented from exercising
      its jurisdiction. When the Agriculture Committee reported the salt
      bill to the floor there was an extended debate, with amendments, that
      eventually referred the issue to the Finance Committee. When the
      Finance Committee finally reported the bill to the Chamber, it was too
      late in the session to debate and was tabled.

      The Agriculture Committee joined the four committees that had been
      created prior to 1816 that mostly served as housekeeping committees
      such as the Joint Committee on Enrolled Bills, or the Joint Committee
      on the Library. (Robert C. Byrd, The Senate 1789-1989, Addresses on
      the History of the United States Senate, Volume II, 1991, U.S.
      Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 216.) And it joined
      the eleven standing committees created in 1816, including Foreign
      Relations, Ways and Means (later Finance), Commerce and Manufactures,
      Military Affairs, Militia, Naval Affairs, Public Lands, Claims,
      Judiciary, Post Office and Roads, and Pensions. (Robert C. Byrd, The
      Senate 1789-1989, Addresses on the History of the United States
      Senate, Volume II, 1991, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
      D.C. pp. 217-218.) Before 1816, Senators served on literally dozens of
      ad hoc committees.

      In that first Agriculture Committee of five, four others served with
      Senator Findlay. They included Senator Edward Lloyd of Maryland,
      Senator John Branch of North Carolina, Senator Levi Woodbury of New
      Hampshire, and Senator Charles D. Bouligny of Louisiana. Aside from
      Senator Bouligny, the Committee's Senators represented the eastern
      seaboard of the new nation. And, in an age before the popular election
      of Senators, four of the five members had served as state governors
      before coming to the Senate.

      Despite the potential unlimited breadth of the Committee's
      jurisdiction, the Agriculture Committee, in its first four decades,
      developed a limited legislative agenda. Many of the agricultural
      issues of the early to mid-19th century centered on tariffs, trade,
      the disposition of public lands, and internal improvements as Senator
      Woodbury had earlier described. However, as Senator Holmes had argued,
      these were matters handled primarily by other committees. The interest
      in the Agriculture Committee was not unacknowledged by the Senate,
      however. During a highly charged debate on tariffs in 1832, a motion
      was made to refer the entire question to the Committee on Agriculture,
      but that proposal was defeated by a vote of 18-22. (Congressional
      Globe, March 19, 1832, p. 591.) Congress' unwillingness to establish a
      direct federal role in agriculture during these years substantially
      reduced the role for an active Senate Committee on Agriculture.

      As is often the case, however, it was money that got the ball rolling.
      One of the earliest legislative Acts affecting agriculture was an
      appropriation, in 1839, of $1,000 for the Patent Office to distribute
      seeds, conduct agricultural investigations, and collect agricultural
      statistics. (Congressional Globe, Report of the Secretary of the
      Interior, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Appendix, December 3, 1849, p.
      21.) The appropriation set up an Agricultural Division in the Patent
      Office. However, because the program was administered by the Patent
      Office, it was not considered within the jurisdiction of the
      Agriculture Committee. Subsequent appropriations were intermittent,
      but activity within the Executive Branch continued. In one year alone,
      over 30,000 seed packets were distributed. In addition, agricultural
      statistics were first gathered with the 1840 Census, and published in
      1842. After 1842, Congress made annual appropriations for the Patent
      Office to use for agricultural purposes. (Wayne D. Rasmussen, et al,
      Century of Service, the First 100 Years of the United States
      Department of Agriculture, USDA, Washington, D.C., 1963, pp.5-7.)

      Matters that were considered by the Agriculture Committee during this
      period include petitions requesting government encouragement of
      domestic cultivation of imported commodities (silk and tropical
      products, for example), resolutions for the creation of national
      agricultural schools and societies, measures recommending price relief
      on certain imported goods, and in 1850, a resolution for the creation
      of an Agriculture Bureau within the Department of the Interior. This
      latter measure, reported favorably by the Committee but never
      considered by the Senate, reflected growing sentiment in the Senate
      for an expanded Government role in support of agriculture.

      Meanwhile the Committee limped on. Senator Philip Allen of Rhode
      Island, Chairman of the Committee, in March 1854, moved that the
      Senate appoint a clerk for the Agriculture Committee. The motion was
      approved but a motion to reconsider the vote, offered by Senator John
      Weller of California, prompted debate on the Committee's need for a
      clerk. Senator Weller questioned the necessity of appointing a clerk
      for a committee that met "two or three times during a session of
      Congress." Senator Allen defended his proposition as being only
      temporary, for the assistance of the Committee only in the business
      before it, and not for the entire session. Senator Benjamin Wade of
      Ohio, a Committee Member, expressed his dismay at seeing the
      Agriculture Committee singled out. Other committees with less to do,
      in his judgment, employed clerks. (Congressional Globe, March 23,
      1854, p. 727.) However, it would not be until 1863 that Mr. Joseph
      McCollough was appointed as the Committee's first clerk.
      (Congressional Directory, Washington, D.C., 1863.)

      On December 9, 1856, during debate on another resolution authorizing
      committee clerks, Senator Hamilton Fish of New York again raised the
      issue of unnecessary clerk hiring, and objected to consideration of
      the resolution at that time. Consequently, the resolution was referred
      to the Committee on Retrenchment for further study and review.
      (Congressional Globe, December 9, 1856, p. 57.) By December 1856, the
      matter was considered and debate proceeded on the question of whether
      certain committees had sufficient duties to justify hiring clerks. The
      resolution was amended and approved, but upon its approval the Senate
      adopted a second resolution submitted by Senator Judah P. Benjamin of
      Louisiana to create a Special Committee to study ways to "reduce the
      number and increase the efficiency of the committees." (Congressional
      Globe, December 23, 1856, pp. 182-184.)

      On February 17, 1857, that Special Committee reported a resolution
      amending Senate rules to consolidate or abolish certain standing
      committees. The Committee on Agriculture was not included in the list
      of new or reorganized committees. On February 24, the Senate
      considered the Special Committee's proposal. However, since the end of
      the 34th Congress was near, the matter was tabled. (Congressional
      Globe, February 24, 1856, p. 848.)

      Later, during a special session of the Senate, on March 5, 1857, the
      Special Committee's recommendations were again considered. On that
      day, the Senate approved the resolution, as amended, and the Committee
      on Agriculture was discontinued. (Journal of the Senate, March 5,
      1857, p. 386.) It seems clear from the public record that the lack of
      a clear legislative agenda during those early years led to the demise
      of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. It is not until 1888 that
      there is a record of the Committee holding hearings on issues. Among
      the final items considered by the Committee was a petition from
      farmers in Maine asking for the creation of a federal Department of
      Agriculture. (A Report by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, of a Memorial
      by the Citizens of Maine Praying for the Establishment of a Department
      of Agriculture, 34th Congress, 3rd Session, Report Number 292, 1857,
      Microfiche in the Library of the Senate, U.S. Capitol, Washington,
      D.C.) That desire to create a Department of Agriculture would come to
      fruition in the next decade, and with it a new Senate Committee on
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.