Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking member Saxby Chambliss announced 11 senators — six Democrats and five Republicans — will serve on the House-Senate farm bill conference committee.

Harkin, who will chair the conference committee, said the naming of the Senate members helps get the conference committee a step closer to beginning the processing of merging the Senate farm bill with that passed by the House. The House is expected to announce it conferees soon.

“This group of senators represents diversity in terms of geography, leadership posts and farm bill experience,” he said. “I know that we will work well together and meld a farm bill that fits our country's needs.”

Besides Harkin of Iowa, Democratic members of the committee will include Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee; Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Republican members include Chambliss of Georgia; former Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana; Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Finance Committee; Thad Cochran of Mississippi, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee; and Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Harkin said he looks forward to working with Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Ed Schafer, the new secretary of agriculture, “in reaching our goals of a farm bill that makes important investments in conservation, renewable energy, nutrition and rural development.”

“I am pleased to join Sen. Harkin in naming the senators that will serve on the conference committee to complete the farm bill,” said Chambliss. “Our farmers and ranchers are in the midst of making important planting decisions, and we must complete this bill as soon as possible.”

Lincoln, who chairs the Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support in the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she was honored to be asked to serve as a conferee.

“Members of the Senate and House have worked extremely hard to produce reform-minded, bipartisan farm proposals that respect the geographic diversity of our great nation; make critical investments in our country's nutrition, conservation, rural development, and energy priorities; and maintain our domestic supply of food,” Lincoln said.

“As we look forward to conference negotiations, I will work with my colleagues to ensure we maintain these commitments. I also will continue my fight to protect the safety net relied upon by all American producers. The support our U.S. farmers receive from our government is essential to helping them compete in the global marketplace.”

Lincoln, who hails from a seventh-generation Arkansas farm family, has served on the Agriculture Committee since entering the Senate in 1999.