Fischer, Smith join Senate Ag as Van Hollen leaves |

Fischer, Smith join Senate Ag as Van Hollen leaves

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., will join the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., will leave the committee.

Fischer takes a seat that has been held by Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.

Strange, who was appointed to take the seat of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., when he became attorney general, was defeated in a primary by Roy Moore, who was, in turn, defeated in the general election by Democrat Doug Jones, who joined the Senate this month.

Fischer becomes the 11th Republican on the committee, which has 10 Democrats.

Smith, who was appointed to the seat of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who resigned, will take the seat of Van Hollen, who left for an assignment on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The appointments of Nebraska’s Fischer and Minnesota’s Smith and the departures of Alabama’s Strange and Maryland’s Van Hollen mean that the Midwest has increased its influence on the committee at the expense of the South and the East.

It is highly unusual for two senators from the same party and the same state to serve on Senate committees, but Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will maintain her seat in addition to Smith, the former Minnesota lieutenant governor. Franken did not serve on the agriculture committee.

Iowa’s two Republican senators, Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, both serve on agriculture.

It also means that half the Democrats and two of the Republicans on the committee are women.

In a statement on all her committee assignments, Smith said, “I’m eager to fight for the nurse in greater Minnesota who’s worried about cuts to the rural health budget and the public school teacher who wants to give students a world-class education; for the retirees in Duluth who are concerned about their pensions getting cut, the farmer in Willmar concerned about slumping commodity prices, the tribal leader who demands a response to the opioid crisis in Indian Country, and the local business looking to cut its monthly energy bill.”

In a news release, Fischer said, “I’m excited to announce that I am now a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. For over 40 years, I’ve worked with agriculture and rural development organizations across the state of Nebraska. Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, and it’s a big part of my own life. As a state senator in the Nebraska Legislature and as a U.S. senator, common-sense agriculture policy has been a top priority for me, and I am honored that I now have an opportunity to be more involved at the federal level.”

In the news release, Fischer took credit for the inclusion of a reversal of cuts in the crop insurance program in a highway bill in 2015; a provision modifying Environmental Protection Agency farm fuel storage regulations in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016; passage of the biotechnology labeling law that eliminated a patchwork of state-by-state laws; fighting for elimination of the Waters of the United States rule; brokering an agreement to bring the first shipment of U.S. beef from a plant in Hastings, Neb., to Israel in over a decade; and welcoming Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to Cherry County, Neb., for a roundtable discussion with Sandhills ranchers.