WASHINGTON – Saxby Chambliss is the new chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, replacing Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who will head up the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Although Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, is only in his second year in the Senate, he brings a wealth of experience on agricultural issues to the post, according to farm organization leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee announced the new Senate chairmanships Monday. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas was next in line to succeed Cochran as chairman of the Agriculture Committee but reportedly asked Frist if he could remain as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Chambliss, whose hometown is Moultrie, Ga., served on the House Agriculture Committee for eight years, the last two as chairman of its Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, before winning election to the Senate in 2002.
"Senator Chambliss is uniquely qualified to lead the Committee during a period that will include historical trade negotiations and preparations for new farm law," said National Cotton Council Chairman Woody Anderson. "He has a depth of knowledge about production agriculture, conservation, nutrition and research programs through his work on the 1996 and 2002 farm bills."
Anderson said that in 2002 during development of the farm bill, Senator Chambliss chaired a key House subcommittee with responsibility for general farm commodities, and he has represented a Congressional district and state which produces a wide variety of crops, livestock and poultry.
As chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Chambliss will be responsible for conducting confirmation hearings for Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns, nominated to be Secretary of Agriculture. He also will begin the process of preparing new farm legislation to replace the highly successful 2003 bill, which expires with the 2007 crop.
Incoming NCC Chairman Woods Eastland of Greenwood, MS, said agriculture is fortunate to have someone with Senator Chambliss' wealth of knowledge, experience and respect of the agricultural community to take charge of the Committee following the successful term of Senator Cochran.
While he has remained supportive of the major provisions of the farm bill, he has been quoted as saying he believes cuts may have to be made in farm spending to help reduce the federal deficit.
“It’s given a help hand in the tough years,” Chambliss said in a recent interview. “But it’s been a very expensive bill. We’re always concerned about budget issues.”
All discretionary spending programs were hit with a 0.83 percent reduction in the fiscal year 2005 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in November. Bush administration officials reportedly have been told to cut spending by 5 percent in the 2006 budget plan.
Chambliss attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., and earned his B.B.A degree from the University of Georgia. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Tennessee in 1968.
He was elected to the House in 1994 and defeated incumbent Mac Cleland in his first run for the Senate in 2002.