After the installment of the 113th Congress Thursday, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) relinquished his seat as Senate Ag Committee ranking member in favor of the more senior Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss).
Roberts said in a statement that seniority "is a well-respected and historic privilege in the U.S. Senate," and said Cochran has his full support.
"Rest assured, I will remain a strong and vocal champion for agriculture as a senior member of the committee. I will retain my 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.
Cochran said he was "pleased" that the committee members have entrusted him with the opportunity to serve as Republican ranking member.
"I will use the experiences I've gained in serving on the committee since 1979 to help quickly advance a new Farm Bill that will meet the needs of our country's farmers, small businesses and those who rely on the nutrition programs under the Committee's jurisdiction," Cochran said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Chairman Stabenow and members of the committee in this new Congress, and I thank Senator Roberts for his dedicated service as the Ranking Member during the 112th Congress."
Sen. Roberts said Thursday that despite the leadership change, agriculture will continue to be a priority, vowing to act on a new, five-year Farm Bill.
"I look forward to working closely with Senator Cochran in this new congress to pass a five year farm bill that benefits producers, consumers and the taxpayer," Roberts said. Roberts will remain a member of the Senate Ag Committee.
Cochran joined the Senate Agriculture Committee after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978. He has previously served as committee chairman from 2003 to 2005. Cochran also serves on the Senate Committee on Rules, as well as the Committee on Appropriations. He is expected to remain ranking member on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee.