Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is poised to take over the Senate Agriculture Committee chairmanship left vacant by the loss Tuesday by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., a plum this year with the panel set to craft the 2012 farm bill.
"With the next farm bill right around the corner, I am ready once again to advocate for and strengthen this critical part of our economy for Michigan and our country," Stabenow said in a morning statement laying claim to the job. She also expressed disappointment over Lincoln's defeat.
Three Democrats, Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota are senior to Stabenow on the panel, but they are expected to remain chairmen of the Finance, Judiciary and Budget committees, respectively.
Conrad, from a heavily agricultural state, has considered the move but is expected to remain Budget chairman, where he believes he can help cut the budget deficit while influencing over the farm bill, Senate sources said. Aides noted Conrad passed on the job last year when the a committee reshuffling resulting from the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., opened the Agriculture chairmanship.
Leahy previously served as Agriculture Chairman and gave up the top spot on that panel to take Judiciary.
Stabenow, whose state has an interest in the meat industry and sugar beets, is next in line.
“That's how is plays out,” said one Democratic leadership aide.
“As Michigan’s second largest industry, agriculture is critical to our economy and employs thousands of people. Michigan is second only to California in our agricultural diversity including our leadership in the production of many fruits and vegetables," Stabenow said Tuesday. "With over 19.3 million acres of forest land, we are also leaders in forest products and practices."
Senate committee chairmanships and assignments will be officially determined in January.
Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.