Thad Cochran to take farm policy reins – how far will he go? Farmers make Londoners smile – in the rain!

By Alan Guebert, November 8, 2002

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1. Thad Cochran, farm leader?

The Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate (see # 3, below) hands Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran unprecedented power to shape American farm policy over the next two years. Shape? More like reshape because many Congressional Republicans never liked the 2002 Farm Bill from the get-go. Similarly, the White House made no secret of its disdain for the law either; it had nothing to do with its writing or passage.

Cochran comes to power as the Republican currently second in seniority on the Senate Ag Committee behind Indiana’s Richard Lugar. Lugar, you may recall, ran the Committee when Republicans briefly controlled the Senate in 2001.

While Lugar points with pride to ownership of a 600-acre Indiana farm, he never farmed. Lugar grew up on the west side of Indianapolis before becoming that city’s mayor. Senate longevity put him in charge of the Ag Committee, a second choice to his primary ambition--to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That chair, however, would have been warmed by the boney bottom of the Senate’s most reactionary Republican, North Carolina’s Jesse Helms. God finally told Jesse to retire this year--he’s old, ill and barely ambulatory--which now opens the position to Lugar who, by all accounts, is a brilliant foreign policy expert. (And one who finds much fault with W.’s foreign policy.)

All the shuffling makes Cochran the boss of the Ag Committee. It’s a powerful post in the right hands as Tom Harkin, just re-elected in Iowa and the outgoing Ag chair, proved in the 2002 Farm Bill fight.

Cochran carries two potent clubs that could make him the most powerful Ag Committee chair ever. First, as I note in my Nov. 10 Farm and Food File newspaper column, “The GOP (Senate) victory also crowns Cochran the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member. In effect, Cochran can now set the ag agenda in the Senate and control the flow o