By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Nov. 19 – Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) formally announced Friday that he will keep his Senate Budget Committee chairmanship rather than take the Senate Ag Committee chair to replace Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) who was defeated in the midterm elections. In making the announcement, Conrad added that he will continue as a senior and influential member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Conrad's choice makes it virtually certain that the Ag Committee will be chaired by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) once the new Congress convenes in January.
“After many conversations with constituents, ag leaders and Senate colleagues, it is clear that the people of North Dakota are best served with me remaining the Chairman of the Budget Committee,” Senator Conrad said. “As Chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, the people of North Dakota will be best represented in negotiations on the next Farm Bill, legislation to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, and renewed efforts to put our nation’s fiscal house in order.”
Senator Conrad cited his ability to shape the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills from his position as Chairman of the Budget Committee and as a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, as important factors in his decision.
“Even though we are about to write a new Farm Bill – and chairing the Agriculture Committee would be something I would very much enjoy – most everyone has concluded that I am in a very strong position to affect the outcome of the next Farm Bill by remaining a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and retaining the Chairmanship of the Budget Committee,” Senator Conrad said.
A coalition of leading North Dakota agriculture organizations wrote Senator Conrad Thursday urging him to remain Chairman of the Budget Committee. “We believe that your continued chairmanship of the Budget Committee would be a better use of your experience and seniority on behalf of North Dakota agriculture, as well as to our country during these challenging times for our nation’s budget,” 15 coalition members wrote.
In addition, the Grand Forks Herald, one of North Dakota's largest newspapers, recently called for Senator Conrad to remain Budget Committee chairman, noting he played a central role in the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill and “didn’t need the chairman’s gavel to be effective.” In its November 13 editorial, the Herald wrote “while Conrad at Agriculture could craft a short-term boost for North Dakota, Conrad at Budget could help build the foundation for long-term prosperity – for not only North Dakota but also the entire U.S.”
“Obviously, the biggest hurdle we now face is the long-term fiscal challenge confronting our nation. We’re on an unsustainable course,” Senator Conrad said. “As chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture and Finance committees, I will be best positioned to help get results for North Dakota and the nation.”
To read Sen. Stabenow's comments now that Sen. Conrad's decision to remain as Senate Budget Committee chair has opened the way for Sen. Stabenow to head the Ag Committee, go to: www.agri-pulse.com/Stabenow_Senate_Ag_Committee_goals_20101119SD.asp
Below is the letter to Senator Conrad from North Dakota agriculture leaders:
Dear Senator Conrad:
We write to thank you for your strong leadership on the agricultural and budgetary issues facing our nation. We greatly appreciate your efforts in developing the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills as well as your service as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Indeed, your position as Chairman has assured that agricultural issues receive fair and equitable treatment before the Budget Committee.
We understand that you have the opportunity to become the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the next Congress but that doing so would require stepping down as Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. We appreciate your support of agriculture and know that you would be an excellent Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. However, we believe that your continued chairmanship of the Budget Committee would be a better use of your experience and seniority on behalf of North Dakota agriculture, as well as to our country during these challenging times for our nation’s budget. We also believe that through your leadership both the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills addressed North Dakota’s agricultural needs extremely well. Therefore, we encourage you to retain your chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee in the 112th Congress.
Once again, thank you for the continued support and leadership that you provide to North Dakota and the nation on agricultural and budgetary issues.
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