The Nov. 5 elections resulted in a Republican takeover of the Senate and provided the potential for added clout for at least one farmer-friendly congressman.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is poised to take over the Senate Agriculture Committee chairmanship and is expected to continue in his role as ranking member of the Agricultural Appropriations subcommittee.
Although not yet official, Congressional staff members say they are confident Cochran will soon be named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The Republican conference is expected to meet sometime during the week of Nov. 11. At that time, committee assignments will be determined and agreed to by conference members.
Hunter Moorhead, legislative assistant to Cochran, says, "By taking on the chairmanship on the Committee on Agriculture, the committee will receive a budget for staff, and that budget will allow Sen. Cochran to hire a number of staff that will work on the agriculture committee under his direction."
That added presence in Washington, D.C., is expected by some in the industry to reap great rewards for agriculture.
"I think most all farmers are pleased with the expected appointment of Sen. Cochran as chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, and ranking member of the Agricultural Appropriations subcommittee," says Kenneth Hood, a Mississippi cotton grower and chairman of the National Cotton Council.
Hood says that if Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) accepts the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee it would benefit all of agriculture, because that position requires a skilled legislator with an in-depth understanding of agricultural policy, including commodity programs, food safety, research, trade, conservation and rural development, to successfully craft and promote passage of agricultural legislation. "Sen. Cochran has extensive experience in successfully developing agricultural policy, both as a member of the appropriations committee and the authorizing committee," Hood said. "He has consistently demonstrated the willingness and the ability to work in a bipartisan manner with colleagues from every region of the country. If Senator Cochran agrees to serve as chairman, farmers, ranchers, rural communities and consumers will be the beneficiaries of his ability to consider a broad variety of views when crafting effective legislation." Hood did note that the election results are not final and committee assignments for the 108th Congress have not been made. Rodney Baker, director of governmental affairs with Arkansas Farm Bureau, adds, "Having the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee back in the South is good for Southern agriculture."
"Sen. Cochran has worked well with our delegation in the past, and we expect that to continue in the future. Having his leadership back in the South we think is positive, because our members and his constituents share similar interests in the legislative issues affecting agriculture," he says.
In other election developments, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is expected to regain his post as Senator Majority Leader, while Rep. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., was ousted from his seat by Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor D-Ark. Baker says Arkansas Farm Bureau expects Pryor to be a friend of agriculture.
"We think agriculture is certainly going to be able to work with Sen. Mark Pryor. We worked well with his father Sen. David Pryor when he served on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and we expect to continue that working relationship with the younger Sen. Pryor."
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., faces a Dec. 7 runoff election.
As a result of the recent election, Republicans are expected to occupy at least 51 Senate seats.