Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has been named by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to replace Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., as head of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Chambliss will take over when the 109th Congress convenes in January. Cochran is moving on to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, while Chambliss will step down as from his seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Chambliss passes over more senior senators for the ag post because those leaders elected to keep their current committee positions in the new Congress. On the House side, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is expected to remain in his position as chair of the ag committee.
The Corn Refiners Association announced that it welcomed Chambliss as head of the committee noting that Chambliss will "provide a steady hand at the helm both to resolve outstanding trade conflicts and to open vital new markets for U.S. agriculture."
The National Cotton Council notes that during 2002 as the new farm bill was being written Chambliss chaired a key House subcommittee with responsibility for general farm commodities. He served on the House Ag Committee during his eight years as a representative and has served on the Senate Ag Committee since joining the Senate two years ago.
Chambliss will be responsible for conducting confirmation hearings for Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns, who is nominated to replace Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture. And Chambliss takes the reins in time to begin the process of preparing new farm legislation to replace the 2002 Farm Bill, which expires with the 2007 crop.
In other Senate committee changes, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, will chair Senate Commerce Committee. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will chair the Indian Affairs Committee. All moves are subject to caucus approval, which is expected in January.