A Senatorial game of musical chairs this week resulted in one of the fiercest proponents of production agriculture, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), becoming the new chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
Committee leadership is almost always a function of both party and seniority, with Members rarely holding more than one chairmanship – rules that held true in this week’s shuffle.
Lincoln gained her post after Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) left the Agriculture chairmanship to take the helm at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, commonly known as HELP. The HELP chairmanship was left vacant after the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and an announcement this week from HELP’s second most senior Member, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), that he would remain chairman of the Banking Committee.
Harkin’s departure from the Agriculture panel left Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in line for the chairmanship, but they serve as Chairmen of the Judiciary, Budget and Finance Committees, respectfully, so the torch passed to Lincoln.
Lincoln is considered to be a moderate Democrat and is known as someone who understands the reality of farm operations. She is a farmer’s daughter who has served on the Committee since first elected to the Senate in 1998. Lincoln was instrumental in the writing of the 2008 Farm Bill and is heavily involved in hunger and rural outreach issues. She is both the first Arkansan and first woman to hold the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee.
NAWG congratulates both Harkin and Lincoln on their new positions and looks forward to continuing work with Chairman Lincoln and her staff.