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