New Senate Ag Committee Chairman

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Senate Ag committee changes leadership

By Rita Jane Gabbett on 9/10/2009

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has accepted the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, replacing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who will succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), the senators announced.

"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, a committee I have been on since I first joined the Senate in 1985," Harkin said in a statement. He chaired the committee through both the 2002 and 2007 farm bills.

Lincoln, who is up for reelection next year, has been on the Senate Agriculture Committee since she joined the Senate in 1998. She defended farm subsidies during last year's farm bill debate. In 2004 she founded the bipartisan Senate Hunger Caucus.

"With such priorities as child nutrition reauthorization, farm bill implementation, and regulation of commodities, the committee has a full plate," Lincoln said in a statement.

Harkin move good for industry

Harkin's move to the HELP committee could be good for the food production industry.

"He'd be in control of an arguably more powerful committee which wrestles with all things FDA and food safety and with labor issues, such as the Employee Free Choice Act," wrote Steve Kopperud, senior vice president, Policy Directions, Inc. in his blog on the Brownfield Network.

"From a production and processing standpoint, it would be a very good thing for farmers, ranchers and industry to have someone who has an intuitive understanding of production agriculture leading and guiding the debate among his more urban peers," he added.

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