If Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa assumes the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that is vacant with the passing of Ted Kennedy, it could mean a large shift in leadership on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Harkin would have to step down as chairman of the Agriculture Committee to chair the Health Committee. Speculation continues that if that was to occur Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., could become the new chair. There are several committee members who would be in line for the chairmanship ahead of Lincoln, but they each hold the chair of some very powerful committees that they may not want to relinquish.
According to a report on the National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service, former Lincoln advisor Brian Noble says he thinks she would be a very effective leader and would be able to use the relationships she has established in the Senate to build the type of coalition needed to move legislation.
If Lincoln becomes chair of the Ag Committee it would represent a significant regional shift that would put the South in the driver's seat, as the ranking member of the committee is Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Noble, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation says cotton, rice and peanuts would almost certainly gain greater attention.
Also, Noble sees the possibility that Lincoln could have tremendous influence over the next Farm Bill and says he thinks Lincoln would present a very proactive leadership style as chair of the Senate Ag Committee.
Despite the growing speculation that Lincoln could end up as the chair, a lot of things yet to be determined would have to occur for it to happen. The Senate returns from its August recess next Tuesday, Sept. 8.