AFTER weeks of speculation, Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) made it official last Thursday that he will step down from his position as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) will take over.
Cochran had seniority for the post. Roberts gave Cochran his full backing and helped usher in unanimous support for the change.
"Rest assured, I will remain a strong and vocal champion for agriculture as a senior member of the committee. I will retain my (Senate) Finance Committee seat, and as a senior member of this committee, I am able to affect trade policy, especially ag trade, tax reform and rural health care," Roberts said. The action allows him to assert his seniority as ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee.
Dale Moore, deputy director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation and former staffer for Roberts, noted that he believes Roberts made the move strategically.
Rather than Republicans fighting over who holds rank, Moore said Roberts' decision to step down puts "Republicans 10 miles farther down the road than that process could be" if the two had started an embittered battle.
Moore called Cochran the "dean of agriculture" on Capitol Hill due to his tenure, expertise and time spent on the appropriations process and agriculture committee.
The changeup could result in a substantially different farm bill emerging out of the Senate this year. Cochran voted against the widely supported bill in the Senate, saying it was not modified enough to be more equitable to crops predominantly grown in southern states.
Moore downplayed Cochran's nay vote and said Cochran and his team have never been the type to make demands of others and still easily work alongside others.