Cochran out, Hyde-Smith in

There’s a fresh, new and female face on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Her name is Cindy Hyde-Smith, and she is Mississippi’s newest senator. Hyde-Smith replaces 80-year-old Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran after his retirement on April 1.

It’s important to understand the shoes she’ll be filling. Cochran was a powerhouse in the Senate.

In 1978, Cochran won his first election, making him the first Republican in over 100 years to win a Mississippi election. He served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and remains at the No. 10 spot in all-time longest Senate tenures.

Since Sen. Cochran left the Senate before his term was complete, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith to fill his vacant seat. Cochran was in failing health and was no longer able to carry out his term to 2021, an honorable (and I’m sure difficult) thing to do given the power he had as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The mighty and highly coveted appropriations chairman position now goes to Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, keeping the position in the power of a southern state. The appropriations committee is powerful and influential because it determines the funding for federal government programs.

Prior to his resignation, Cochran said, “I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge. I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate.”

And that’s just what he did. The Senate passed the omnibus appropriations bill, and it was signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Hyde-Smith, 58, served as Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner since 2011, as well as 12 years as a state senator, and she now serves as her state’s first female U.S. senator. Perhaps most important, Hyde-Smith raises beef cattle on a fifth-generation family farm.

During Trump’s presidential campaign, Hyde-Smith co-chaired his Agriculture Advisory Committee.

During her first days in office in the U.S. Senate, she attended her first hearing as a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and had the opportunity to ask questions to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Not bad for her first week on the job.

“I loved working with the soil,” Hyde-Smith said in 2015 to the Delta Business Journal. “And it taught me a deep appreciation for the farmer and farming. You grow your food, feed your family and farmers grow the food to feed America. That garden and that concept all those years ago really began my journey into agriculture. Farmers really do feed America.”

There’s no doubt that Hyde-Smith loves agriculture and will be in place just in time to provide input for the 2018 farm bill.

Hyde-Smith’s appointment also means that Mississippi will elect (or re-elect) two new senators in November, which is an unusual circumstance. Mississippi’s other Sen. Roger Wicker will be up for re-election as well.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.