The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday easily approved the nomination of Janie Simms Hipp, a longtime agricultural law specialist and member of the Chickasaw Nation, to become the Agriculture Department's general counsel. 

"She has a long history of working on agricultural and legal issues and a breadth of experience that will be very valuable," Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said shortly before the committee approved Hipp's nomination on a voice vote. "I agree totally," responded Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, the committee's top Republican. 

Stabenow told reporters she's hopeful that Hipp can be approved by the full Senate by unanimous consent. 

Two other USDA nominees are in the pipeline — Robert Bonnie to be undersecretary of farm production and conservation programs and Jenny Lester Moffitt to be undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs — but no hearings have been scheduled because the committee has yet to receive the necessary paperwork, including questionnaires, Stabenow told reporters. 

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Meanwhile, Stabenow is working with Boozman on scheduling a hearing on cattle market concerns. Asked if the hearing would be in July, she said it could be "sooner than that." "There's a lot of interest," she said. 

During Hipp's confirmation hearing, she assured senators she will work closely with the Justice Department to address concerns meatpackers are using their market power to depress prices paid to producers. She said there is an unprecedented level of bipartisan interest in the issue. 

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