Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) became Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee this year, giving her a big say over the 2012 Farm Bill. And she has wasted no time touting that position ahead of her 2012 reelection bid.
Stabenow announced Friday that the panel's first Farm Bill hearing will be May 31 in East Lansing, Mich., at Michigan State University. (On Jan. 11, also in East Lansing, Stabenow addressed the Michigan Agri-Business Association.) The hearing is titled "Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill," and will focus on aspects the Farm Bill that will affect the state. While Michigan is known for its auto, not agricultural, industry, it has a significant farming sector. And Stabenow has noted the panel's jurisdiction over forestry also matters there.
Stabenow's touting of her chairmanship follows what might seem a dubious model offered by former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark). Lincoln took over the panel's chairmanship in August 2009 from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in a shifting of committee chairs prompted by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass). In 2010, Lincoln made much of her ability to use the panel post to deliver for her rural state, playing up her months-long fight to win $1.5 billion in disaster aid that went largely to help Arkansas farmers.
Lincoln was trounced anyway, losing to then-GOP Rep. John Boozman by more than 20 percentage points. Still, it appears Lincoln lost not because of, but in spite of her Agriculture post. And while it will probably not be a big factor in Michigan, Stabenow's position may offer her modest help next year in what could be a tough race.