The Republican Party’s takeover of the Senate majority last week will have a distinct impact on the face of several committees affecting agriculture, as well as on ag policy itself.

Washington insiders predict that Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will become chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee when current chair Richard Lugar, R-Ind., assumes the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Reports also indicate that Cochran is in line to chair the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee, too.

Speaker Dennis Hassert, R-Ill, is expected to retain his post in the House of Representatives. And it is anticipated that Tom DeLay, R-Texas, will move to the Majority Leader post. No clear front runner is currently pegged to replace Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, House Minority Leader after he announced that he will not seek to retain that position.

Meanwhile, in an unexpected announcement, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, said Tuesday he would resign from Congress, effective May 31, for personal reasons. He had just been elected to his tenth term. That leaves the reins of the House Agriculture Committee up for grabs.

All of this is supposition, however, until Congress holds leadership elections later this week as it convenes its lame-duck session.

Industry insiders say that dairy trade issues will be critical during the upcoming Congressional session, especially with the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization talks on the horizon and the intense domestic scrutiny of dairy commodity imports and their impact on milk price.

Furthermore, legislative leaders also will be called upon to deal with other key dairy issues like maintaining funding in the Farm Bill for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the continuing call for the repeal of the estate tax.

Experts believe a Republican Congress and Republican administration improves the chances for the passage of these items.

Source: Western United Dairymen