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Sen. Tina Smith gets her wish: She’s appointed to the Agriculture Committee

By DAVE ORRICK | | Pioneer Press

Sen. Tina Smith will get to grapple with food stamps and crop insurance as she begins her abbreviated term in the U.S. Senate — as she wished.

Smith, who was sworn in last week as Minnesota’s newest senator, was named Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

The committee, on which Smith had sought a seat, is important to Minnesota because of how it affects farmers and land use via roughly $1 billion in annual taxpayer spending, aka the “farm bill.”

Farmers across the Upper Midwest rely on the bill to determine government payments, which can range from cash payments to subsidies for crop insurance — payments if crops fail or fail to sell for anticipated prices. With farm income falling in recent years, the often-controversial programs are likely to be especially watched by farm interests. The farm bill also handles food stamps for poor people, and controversy over that program often overshadows the rest of the bill.

Politically, Smith, a Minneapolis resident and longtime behind-the-scenes operator for Democrats who never held elected office before being elected as Gov. Mark Dayton’s lieutenant governor in 2014, can try to use her work on the farm bill to earn support in rural Minnesota as she seeks to hold the Senate seat longer than a mere number of months.

Smith was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to replace Al Franken, who resigned amid accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior. A special election in November will determine who serves out the remainder of Franken’s term through 2020. Smith is running, as is Karin Housley, a Republican state senator from St. Mary’s Point.

On Tuesday, Smith also was named to the following Senate committees:

  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • Energy and Natural Resources
  • Indian Affairs

Before his resignation, Franken served on the Senate committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Judiciary; Indian Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources.

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