John Boozman reelected to Senate, awaits word on ag panel chair

Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman cruised to reelection Tuesday, but what role the two-term incumbent will play in his next stint depends on which party clinches control of the chamber after the midterms.

Boozman won a third, six-year term by defeating Democrat Natalie James, Libertarian Kenneth Cates and two write-in candidates in the low-profile campaign.

Solidly red Arkansas won’t play a starring role in resetting the balance of power in Washington, but if Republicans take control of the Senate back from Democrats, Boozman is in line to chair the powerful Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

It could be days before the final votes — and which party holds the majority — are known.

Boozman, 71, is ranking member of the panel that is currently chaired by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Agriculture is hugely important in Arkansas, a largely rural state that is the nation’s leading producer of rice and home to Tyson Foods, the largest poultry producer in the U.S.

He’s also introduced legislation that would give the regulatory authority over cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, over which the agriculture committee has authority.

The committee also recommends funding for agriculture services such as crop insurance and farm-related disaster payments. It also oversees funding for land conservation efforts and nutrition programs such as school lunches and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.

“As chairman, he would be able to lead the efforts, set the agenda the committee would take up with next year being the farm bill,” said Jarrod Yates, director of public affairs and governmental relations for the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

The farm bill, a five-year spending program, is to be written in 2023 with a projected total budget estimated by the Congressional Budget Office of $648 billion.

“It’s a very large comprehensive bill that’s absolutely vital to the country,” according to Andrew Grobmyer, executive vice president of the Arkansas Agricultural Council.

The low-key Boozman was endorsed during the GOP Primary by conservative groups including the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life, from Arkansas’ top Republican leaders, and from former President Donald Trump.

Though typically soft-spoken, Boozman, who was an eye doctor and University of Arkansas football player before getting into politics, took on a sharper tone in his Primary ads, a move he and other Republicans made to show loyalty to Trump, who is teasing another bid for the White House in 2024.

With a Republican majority in the Senate, Boozman would become the second senator from Arkansas to chair the committee. The last was former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat whom Boozman defeated in the 2010 election.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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