Sen. Thad Cochran says he expects to name veteran farm policy specialist Hunt Shipman as staff director for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry when Cochran becomes committee chairman in January.

Shipman was Cochran's agricultural aide when he was selected to be an advisor to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman during the Bush administration transition. Veneman later appointed Shipman deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at USDA.

“I am pleased Hunt Shipman will return to my staff to be the new staff director of the Agriculture Committee,” said Cochran, whose elevation to the chairmanship of the ag committee is expected to be a formality when the 108th Congress convenes in January.

“Hunt worked tirelessly on the recent farm bill as a member of Secretary Veneman's team. I know he will do a superb job of managing the work of the committee staff.”

As head of USDA's farm bill implementation team, Shipman was USDA's point man during the difficult farm bill conference committee negotiations last spring. He then faced the arduous challenge of overseeing the implementation of what some have called the most complicated farm bill in history.

Most analysts say USDA has made remarkable progress on the farm bill, which farmers began signing up for in October.

A native of Dyersburg, Tenn., Shipman first joined Cochran's staff in 1992, serving first as a legislative aide and then as the senator's legislative assistant handling agricultural issues, including agricultural appropriations.

He joined the Bush administration transition team in January 2001; then became the number two man in the farm policy planning and implementation area for the Agriculture Department as the deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Hunt, and I strongly support his decision to again work for Sen. Cochran in this new capacity,” said Veneman. “Hunt's leadership, as well as his extensive knowledge and understanding of trade and agricultural issues, will be sorely missed at USDA.”

She said Shipman has been “an effective, trusted and dedicated public servant, helping guide us during the administration's transition period and helping lead USDA's farm bill implementation team.”

Sen. Cochran, who was the third ranking Republican on the ag committee, will become chairman through a set of fortuitous circumstances. The first was the regaining of control by Senate Republicans in the Nov. 5 elections. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking member on the committee, had previously announced he would become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Jesse Helms, the number two Republican on the committee, announced his retirement earlier this year.


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