AgFax Blog: Sen. Cochran Snags Top Ag Seat, But Don’t Count Your Chickens Yet

Debra Ferguson
By Debra L Ferguson, Editor, AgFax Media January 5, 2013 15:11

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AgFax Blog: Sen. Cochran Snags Top Ag Seat, But Don’t Count Your Chickens Yet

I kept thinking there must be a game analogy related to the changes that happened this week in the Senate Ag Committee. I’m not much of a game player, but even I could see a Chess pattern.

In case you missed it, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., used his “seniority” to move into the position of ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.

We first heard rumors in November that Cochran, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Senate was considering the move from his current position as ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee to the ranking position on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Meanwhile in the land of  The Wizard of Oz, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., made no bones about it. As the ranking Republican member of the Ag Committee, he had no intention of giving it up, having served on the Ag Panel since the late 70s.

This week, Cochran made what I think is called a Checkmate. I even looked it up. According to Wikipedia, it  means “when a player’s king is threatened with capture, and there is no way to counter the threat.” He wanted the Ag Committee ranking position, and he called in favors and years of service to get it. And, you know he’s bound to have plenty of favors after 35 years. Done.

In a gracious statement of congratulations and welcome to Cochran (well, not really) outgoing Roberts said, “Sen. Thad Cochran is going to assert his seniority on the Ag Committee and will become the ranking member. Seniority is a well-respected and historic privilege in the U.S. Senate.”

Turns out, Roberts had his own “seniority” move planned. In that same statement, he announced, “This action today allows me to assert my seniority as the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee. This committee will become increasingly important as I expect to play a very vigorous role in defense of minority rights…”

That’s a lateral chess move, right?

According to a report from David Rogers at Politico, “(Sen.) Roberts’ voice has made him a frequent thorn in the side of the South since he has been one of the leading opponents of target price supports important to rice, peanut and wheat producers from the region. Southern producers complained bitterly last summer when the Senate adopted a five-year farm bill that bore Roberts’ stamp and leaned heavily toward revenue insurance options to replace the current system of direct cash payments to growers.”

The change in leadership may prove to be advantageous for farmers, and especially southern farmers.  But, don’t count your chickens yet (or maybe I should have said kings). The game of politics is full of surprises that often have little to do with good legislation. I wonder what those Kansas farmers are thinking? They probably thought that Roberts was their ultimate chess piece.

Debra Ferguson
By Debra L Ferguson, Editor, AgFax Media January 5, 2013 15:11

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