Mississippi farmers are waiting to learn whether the Magnolia State’s senior senator will move to the Senate Agriculture Committee and have a key hand in shaping a new farm bill extension as the ag panel’s Ranking Republican member.
AgFax.com reported shortly before Christmas on speculation that Sen. Thad Cochran was mulling a move to become the Agriculture Committee. Cochran has the option to move from his current position as Ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee to the Ranking position on the Agriculture Committee. Under Senate Republican rules, Cochran has reached the term limit as the Ranking Member of Appropriations, AgFax.com reports.
Cochran has said he is considering the options, but he has not made a final decision. Cochran legislative assistant Daniel Ulmer said in an email today that he “has not been made aware” of new developments regarding Cochran’s committee memberships.
To take the Ranking Member spot on Agriculture, Cochran would have to replace current Ranking Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas. If Roberts resists the move, Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee would have to come to a vote on the position, which would ultimately be decided in any day now, possibly subject to a vote in the full Republican conference, AgFax reports.
In the past, senators have always been reluctant to breach someone else’s seniority, and Roberts has indicated wants to stay on as the party’s top representative on the committee, AgFax says.
AgFax notes that a recent decision by the House of Representatives to scrap the current farm bill in favor of a nine-month extension gives hope to Southern members of Congress that new leadership on the Senate Ag Committee would be friendlier to Southern agriculture.
The Senate approved a farm bill extension but the House failed to act in time to avoid a default return to the 1949 farm bill. As an alternative, the House voted to extend the farm bill extension passed in 2008 through September.
Now the entire process must start anew. This brings uncertainty to farmers, lenders and commodity brokers across the country. “The path forward is unclear at this time, said Ulmer, Cochran’s legislative aide.