If GOP wins Senate, Boozman set to take helm of ag panel

FILE – Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2022. Boozman is running for reelection. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon File)

Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman is expected to coast to reelection Tuesday, but what role the two-term incumbent would play in his next six-year stint depends on whether the GOP clinches control of the Senate in the midterms.

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

Seventy-one-year-old Boozman is currently ranking member of the panel, and stepping up to head the committee is likely to play well for voters in 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 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.

During the GOP primary, Boozman won endorsements from conservative groups including the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life, from Arkansas’ top Republican leaders, and from former President Donald Trump. The 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.

If things go Boozman’s way, he 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.

In seeking his third term, Boozman faces political newcomer and Democrat Natalie James, Libertarian Kenneth Cates and two write-in candidates in what has been a low profile campaign.

James, of Little Rock, is a realtor, has chaired the political action committee of the Little Rock Branch of the NAACP and is a commissioner on the Little Rock Land Bank, a committee that works to stabilize property value, increase home ownership and create affordable housing in the city.

Cates is a firefighter and paramedic for the city of Eureka Springs and a military veteran.

Boozman has dominated his opponents in fundraising, according to Federal Election Commission records, raising $7.4 million to James’ $73,400.

Cates had no fundraising amounts filed. The FEC does not require reports from campaigns that have raised or spent less than $5,000.

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