Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is in line to become the next Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry if the Republicans remain in majority-control of the US Senate for the upcoming 117th Congress.
Senator Boozman is a veteran politician from Arkansas—a state that has provided extraordinary agriculture leadership to the Nation for decades. He got to the Senate by successfully challenging then-two term Senator Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2010 in her pursuit of a third US Senate term—and at the time Senator Lincoln was herself serving as the chair of the Senate Ag Committee.
Senator Boozman has been active in agriculture policy throughout his Congressional career and with his science background (he’s an optometrist by education and profession) he brings some new energy and perspective to the Republican side of the Senate Ag Committee—and strong backing from his constituents for this role. Arkansas has a higher percentage of its state economy tied to ag than most states, and the farming in the state is as diversified as many from an ag-policy standpoint. It has a great deal of historically-southern crops; cotton and rice in particular—but it also is a leader in soy and feed grain production and has a significant livestock and food processing base (think of the corporate HQs like Tysons Foods, Walmart, Riceland Foods).
Arkansas crops and ag-infrastructure are very export-oriented. Rice and cotton depend extensively on crop exports, and the state is well situated for both river and rail transportation advantages to reach gulf coast export terminal facilities in particular.
The convergence of the Arkansas food and ag interests is as concentrated on Federal ag policy as any state one can think of—yes, certainly food and ag is bigger in Texas or California or even Iowa, but as a percent of the state GDP Arkansas brings a high level of statewide constituent interest to bear. And the crops grown in the state—and the food processing and export interests of the state, means that Senator Boozman potentially chairing the Ag Committee is a thing of significance.
The Senator and his family have been active in the 4-H youth organization and have raised pure bred Polled Hereford cattle.
Mr. Boozman is next in-cycle for re-election—in 2022 he’s up. Chairing the Senate Ag Committee will likely be a key asset in that election cycle. While he’s won his first two Senate elections (2010 and 2016) with 57 and 59 per cent of the general election votes cast—there are no guarantees, and the Senator is surely looking ahead to the 2022 election. His health now seems to be in good order—after needing emergency heart surgery in 2014 and having a successful follow up procedure in 2017 related to an aorta tear.
The “purgatory” the Senate finds itself in, with the 117th Congress control of the Senate hanging in the balance awaiting the outcomes of two Georgia Senate runoff elections, uncertainty permeates the entire upper chamber. The inability of either Senator Boozman or Senator Stabenow to know which will be Senate Ag Chair in the 117th limits some planning as regards staffing and overall makeup of the Committee.
Over recent weeks I’ve had the chance to be in small group, virtual meetings with two high profile political analysts/writers—Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report and Tim Alberta the Chief Political Correspondent for Politico. Both made observations about how Vice President Joe Biden as President-Elect, brings a strong understanding of and respect for the role and institution of Congress as an independent branch of the Federal government. That is a stark contrast to the 10 most recent Presidents. Four of the 10 were previously governors, one only served a short time in the Senate, one had NO previous political office experience and only two had extensive Congressional careers prior to becoming president (Johnson and Ford, and Ford was a short-term president serving under the Watergate-aftermath cloud).
Their point is: President-elect Joe Biden could be expected to work collaboratively with Congress, no matter who controls the Senate, more-so than any recent President. Both pundits alluded to scenarios where it might be better for Biden if Mitch McConnell is Majority leader. One of the two “expert talking heads” even went so far as to offer observations of a supposed Biden-McConnell relationship that I don’t hear about anywhere else.
Food for thought!