WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., traded his leadership position on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee March 4 for the chairmanship of the newly created Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

Replacing Cochran at the helm of Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who now controls the agricultural purse strings.

Beltway insiders say Cochran's ramp up to a position of national prominence underscores the White House's confidence in his leadership skills. Even so, how will the change of command affect Beltwide farmers?

"Obviously, this is a huge development for the future of Sen. Cochran in the U.S. Senate. Our senior senator's influence in national, international and White House policy will expand exponentially with this appointment," says Chip Morgan, executive director of Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council. "And, while we will continue to enjoy his vast influence on agriculture appropriations-related issues, there will be a thin layer between Mississippi and the final say in agriculture appropriations bills."

Morgan is quick to point out, however, that Cochran will continue to be deferred to on all matters relating to agriculture appropriations as long as he is in the U.S. Senate. "He is just that respected in the field."

According to Senate rules, a senator can not be chairman of more than one appropriations subcommittee. And because Cochran is the number two Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he had first option on the choice prize position with Homeland Security. While making the move to Homeland Security required Cochran give up his chairmanship of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, he will maintain his committee member seat on that subcommittee.

Other Senate members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee include: Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; Pete Domenici, R-N.M.; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Judd Gregg, R-N.H.; Ben Campbell, R-Colo.; Larry Craig, R-Idaho; ranking minority member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; Ernest Hollings, D-S.C.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee met March 4 to lay out its plans for the reorganization of the committee's structure.

Cochran will continue to be the second-highest ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and will continue serving as chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee

In addition to Chairman Bennett, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee now includes: Christopher Bond, R-Mo.; Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Cochran, Craig, Specter and McConnell. Democratic members: ranking minority member Kohl; Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; and Harkin.

With creation of the new Homeland Security Department, Congress was forced to restructure various committees. The reorganization plan currently being formulated in the Senate largely replicates the House plan, which created a new Homeland Security subcommittee pieced together from eight existing appropriations subcommittees.

In the Senate, there were 13 subcommittees under the umbrella of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In order to maintain that number, the creation of a Homeland Security Subcommittee March 4 resulted in a merging of the transportation and treasury/general government subcommittees.

Other committee heads include: Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of Commerce/Justice/State; Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of Defense; Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of Energy and Water; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chairman of Foreign Operations; Conrad Burns, R-Mont., chairman of Interior; Arlen Specter, R-Penn., chairman of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; Ben Campbell, R-Colo., chairman of the Legislative Branch; Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, chairman of Military Construction; Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of Transportation and Treasury ; and Christopher Bond, R-Mo., chairman of Veterans' Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.

Sen. Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Robert Byrd, ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the newly assigned subcommittee memberships March 4.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.