U.S. agriculture will lose a valued ally when Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, retires in April.
Cochran is also a senior member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry — a panel he chaired during the 108th Congress.
Cochran was first elected to the Senate in 1978 after serving three terms in the House of Representatives. He is the tenth longest serving U.S. senator in U.S. history.
Monday, Sen. Cochran expressed regret that health reasons “are an ongoing challenge.” His retirement will be effective April 1, 2018.
“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,” Sen. Cochran said in a statement released late Monday afternoon.
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of Mississippi and our country. I’ve done my best to make decisions in the best interests of our nation, and my beloved state. My top concern has always been my constituents in Mississippi. My hope is by making this announcement now, a smooth transition can be ensured so their voice will continue to be heard in Washington, D.C. My efforts, and those of my staff to assist them will continue and transfer to my successor.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Cochran’s ability to work with Senate colleagues and dubbed him the “quiet persuader,” a talent that “endeared him to all his colleagues. Whatever the issue at hand, his allies and adversaries have always admired his unfailingly even keel, sober expertise, and respectful demeanor.”
That ability has served him, his state and his country well in his position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, McConnell said.
“Thad knows there’s a big difference between making a fuss and making a difference. And the people of Mississippi — and our whole nation — have benefited from his steady determination to do the latter.”
McConnell said Cochran leaves behind a legacy of service to farmers, historically black colleges and universities, as well as the Gulf Coast communities devastated after Hurricane Katrina.
“Sen. Cochran departs with our congratulations and gratitude for so many years of honorable and distinguished service, from his time as a Navy officer to nearly four decades in the Senate, and our warmest wishes for his retirement,” said McConnell.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, also praised Cochran for his unwavering support for agriculture. “Sen. Cochran is a dedicated public servant whose years of distinguished service have greatly benefited both Mississippi and our nation,” Conaway said in remarks to Farm Press. “Over his tenure, Sen. Cochran has remained a true friend to agriculture. From shepherding farm bills across the finish line to advocating for farmers and ranchers through the appropriations process, he leaves an outstanding legacy of dedication to agriculture. I wish him all the best. He will be missed.”
“He’s the Michael Jordan of the U.S. Senate,” said Delta Council Executive Vice President Chip Morgan. “He’s been an all-star for agriculture.”
Morgan said Cochran has been supporting agriculture in the U.S. Senate for “almost as long as I have been with the council. For four decades, very little happened in agriculture that didn’t have his DNA on it. He’s also just a great guy who embodies the core values of what you would want of someone who represents you.”
Morgan said Cochran is well respected by his Senate colleagues and has been true to his word, regardless of the issue and regardless of partisanship.
“Senator Cochran has been very important to Mississippi but also important to agriculture,” he said.
Chris Caldwell, Federal co-chairman, Delta Regional Authority, said Cochran has been a “steadfast public servant. For nearly 40 years Senator Cochran has served his constituents and fellow Americans with integrity and a passionate tenacity.”
Caldwell said Cochran was an early champion of the Delta Regional Authority. “The DRA wishes Senator Cochran well in his upcoming retirement and is thankful for this Great American.”
Sen. Cochran was instrumental in securing seed cotton’s eligibility for support under the 2014 farm bill,” National Cotton Council Chairman Ron Craft said. “His insight on the challenges facing agriculture and his leadership in shepherding important farm policy through the Senate are greatly appreciated by the U.S. cotton industry.” Craft added that Cochran is a highly effective legislator and a true statesman who consistently supported the U.S. cotton industry and all of agriculture during his long career.
He was the recipient of the U.S. cotton industry’s Harry S. Baker Award in 2000. That award is presented annually by the NCC to a deserving individual who has provided extraordinary service, leadership and dedication to the U.S. cotton industry.
Craft, a Plains, Texas, cotton ginner, said, “Sen. Cochran has been a tireless advocate for providing adequate funding for the cotton industry’s priorities and programs. The industry congratulates him on his outstanding service, and we wish him well in his retirement.”