Lincoln New Senate Ag Chair

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is the new leader of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, replacing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who has agreed to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy as chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

• Harkin’s Last Act: Cap And Trade

Lincoln will be the first Arkansan and first female ever to serve as chairman of the Ag Committee in its 184-year history.

"Sen. Lincoln’s passion and support for American agriculture make her an excellent choice to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee," said U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN). "She grew up on a farm and knows first-hand how much hard work and dedication it requires. I look forward to working with her on the issues that matter to agriculture and rural America. I also want to commend Sen. Harkin for his leadership and wish him well as he takes over the chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee."

Lincoln has served on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry since January 1999; has served as chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry, and Credit, during the current 111th Congress; and played key role in the 2008 farm bill debate, ensuring a strong safety net for America’s farm families. As a member of the House of Representatives, she served on the House Committee on Agriculture from 1993-95.

“As a seventh-generation Arkansan and farmer’s daughter, I know my father is smiling down on me today,” Lincoln said. “I am fortunate to have served on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry since I was first elected to the Senate in 1998. It has been a committee of significant importance to my constituents and our state’s economy.

“The Committee’s responsibilities encompass a number of issues that are critical to Americans, particularly those living in rural areas,” she said. “With such priorities as child nutrition reauthorization, farm bill implementation, and regulation of commodities, the Committee has a full plate. I thank Sen. Harkin for his tremendous leadership. As chairman, I will work with my colleagues to build upon the Committee’s strong record and devote my full energy to producing forward-looking, balanced priorities on behalf of all families and communities. I will continue to fight for the hard-working farm families and rural communities who provide the safest, most abundant, and affordable supply of food and fiber in the world.”

Will her appointment have much effect on the Senate Ag Committee?

Chris Clayton, DTN’s ag policy editor, wrote in his daily DTN Ag Policy blog, "Lincoln will likely change some dynamics in agriculture policy. She has been a staunch defender of commodity payments and resisted tighter payment caps or income eligibility requirements in the 2007-08 farm bill debate. Lincoln also likely is going to be more skeptical of climate legislation because it may offer little benefit for rice growers or producers of other southern crops. She was quoted in mid-August saying Congress should just focus on a renewable-energy bill and drop the cap-and-trade emissions plan.

"Political newspapers say Lincoln already faces a tough re-election bid for 2010 and may have come across as more conservative in Arkansas to keep her seat as well," according to Clayton.
Harkin chaired the Ag Committee in the 2002 farm bill, then lost his chairmanship and got it back after the 2006 elections, just in time to work on what become the 2008 farm bill.

“Of course agriculture will always be a key interest to my home state of Iowa, so I intend to remain a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry," said Harkin, who has been a member of the Ag Committee since he first joined the Senate in 1985. "My dedication to the Agriculture Committee dates back to my first year in Congress when I served on the House Agriculture Committee in 1975. In that time, I have had the great privilege of serving as chairman of the Senate Committee during enactment of the 2002 and 2007 farm bills — bipartisan legislation that passed this body by an overwhelming majority."

(Sources: AgPress, DTN)

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