Breaking: Sen. Tom Harkin to Step Down from Senate Ag


Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA.

As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., opted not to take over the Senate HELP Committee from the late Sen. Kennedy, leaving the post open for Sen. Tom Harkin the current chair of the Sen. Ag committee.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR.

Announced Wednesday, Harkin will be followed in the Chairmanship by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. who has already updated her online bio to reflect the change in leadership. On her website the Senator said,

“As a seventh-generation Arkansan and farmer’s daughter, I know my father is smiling down on me today. I am fortunate to have served on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry since I was first elected to the Senate in 1998.  It has been a committee of significant importance to my constituents and our state’s economy.  The Committee’s responsibilities encompass a number of issues that are critical to Americans, particularly those living in rural areas.  With such priorities as child nutrition reauthorization, farm bill implementation, and regulation of commodities, the Committee has a full plate.”

Sen. Lincoln speaks to ARFB upon recieving the Golden Plow Award in 2008

Sen. Lincoln speaks to ARFB upon recieving the AFBF Golden Plow Award in 2008 for her contributions to agriculture.

Harkin chaired the Ag Committee in the 2002 farm bill, then lost his chairmanship and got it back after the 2006 elections, just in time to work on what become the 2008 farm bill. He will remain a member of the Sen. Ag committee.

Lincoln will likely change some dynamics in agriculture policy. She has been a staunch defender of commodity payments and resisted tighter payment caps or income eligibility requirements in the 2007-08 farm bill debate. Lincoln also likely is going to be more skeptical of climate legislation because it may offer little benefit for rice growers or producers of other southern crops. She was quoted in mid-August saying Congress should just focus on a renewable-energy bill and drop the cap-and-trade emissions plan.

Wednesday AFBF released a statement thanking Sen. Harkin for his leadership on the committee and welcoming Sen. Lincoln to the post.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation congratulates Sen. Blanche Lincoln on her appointment as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and Sen. Tom Harkin on his appointment as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. We look forward to continue to work with Sen. Lincoln as chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, and we know she will continue to champion the interests of Farm Bureau families in her new assignment.”

The appointment of Sen. Lincoln represents a large shift in the focus of Ag policy from the Midwest with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Iowan Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, along with Harkin in the Senate. The Senate will now be weighted heavily towards the South with Sen. Lincoln representing Arkansas along with Ag Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

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