Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Possible Senate Ag Committee shake-up could give Southern farmers more political leverage

More than a week after the election, Congress is facing a shake-up as newly elected members travel to Washington to learn the ropes and sort out leadership positions. "One of the biggest potential 'game changers' for agriculture" in the Senate could happen if Republican Thad Cochran took the ranking member slot on the Senate Agriculture Committee from Pat Roberts of Kansas, Agri-Pulse reports. Cochran's office would not confirm that he was seeking the position, but some Capitol Hill sources told Agri-Pulse that "It's more than just a rumor," and Cochran is visiting with colleagues on the committee about the possibility.

Cochran's possible putsch reflects Southern farm interests' unhappiness with Roberts' Midwest-friendly handling of the Farm Bill. "Roberts, who has frequently criticized target price proposals in the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill commodity title, has been a thorn in the side of several of Cochran’s Southern farm groups, including rice and peanut growers," Agri-Pulse reports. "If the Farm Bill were to be extended into 2013, which appears to be a high probability, and Cochran were to become ranking member in 2013, those same commodity groups could conceivably find themselves in a much better negotiating position. But if Congress extends the bill, Cochran would also likely have a much smaller baseline to work with for all commodity programs."

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