Thad Cochran, former chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Agriculture Committees, passed away Thursday morning in Oxford, Mississippi.

Cochran, 81, served in Congress for 45 years before resigning last year due to health concerns. He first came to Washington as a representative for Mississippi’s 4th District in 1972 before being elected to the Senate in 1978 as the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election. His 2018 retirement came in the midst of his seventh term in the Senate.

It was in the upper chamber that Cochran made his impact on farm policy and federal funding, often guiding funds to his home state for economic development and disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

He chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 115th Congress, as well as chairman of its Subcommittee on Defense. He was previously chairman of the Committee on Appropriations in the 114th Congress (2015-2016) and the 109th Congress (2005-2006). He served as the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee for one term — the 108th Congress in 2003-2004 — and as the panel’s ranking member for another — the 113th Congress in 2013-2014 — during the final drafting of what would become the 2014 farm bill.

Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts, R-Kan., offered his prayers for Cochran and his family.

"I treasure our friendship over the years on the Agriculture Committee as we worked on multiple Farm Bills together," he said. "Thad was a good man and a level-headed legislator — qualities that are becoming scarce in Washington."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who chaired the ag committee during Cochran's tenure as ranking member, said on her Twitter account she was "very sad to hear of the passing of my dear friend, former Senator Thad Cochran.

"We were partners on the Agriculture Committee and worked to pass a historic, bipartisan Farm Bill in 2014," she added. "We are grateful for his service and he will be missed."

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., described Cochran as a "great person to work with and always a gentleman."

"He was, without question, one of the most impactful senators in agricultural policy in the last hundred years. At one time serving as both the chairman of the ag appropriations subcommittee and the ag authorizing committee, his focus on farm families and growing the reach of American agricultural products was unmatched."

In his farewell address in 2018, Cochran said he was “honored by this body” to serve as the chairman of both committees and thanked past and present colleagues and committee staff “for assisting in crafting responsible funding priorities for our country and for developing strategic agriculture policy to ensure the best use of our natural resources to provide affordable and healthy food for our citizens and people around the world.”

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