Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 06/12/14

Mississippi Senate Runoff Battle Pits Farmers v Club for Growth

Battle lines are being drawn in the GOP Mississippi Senate primary runoff between incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Mississippi farmers have formed the "Farmers for Thad" coalition to support Cochran, who is ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Danny Murphy, chairman of the American Soybean Association, is leading the effort with fellow farmer Jeremy Jack.

“Agriculture is a huge part of Mississippi’s economy,” Murphy said. “It employs almost a third of all Mississippians and contributes $7.5 billion to our state’s economy. Throughout his 30-plus years as our senator, Thad Cochran has kept Mississippi agriculture his top priority. In turn, we’re calling on our friends, neighbors, customers and fellow farmers to stand up for Sen. Cochran on June 24.”

Cochran and McDaniel will hold a runoff vote June 24 after neither candidate received 50% of the vote in June 3 primary. McDaniel had 49.5% of the vote and Cochran had 49%.

While farmers are rallying to Cochran's side, the Club for Growth has jumped into the race supporting McDaniel. Club for Growth is running ads in the state complaining about Cochrans' work "with the liberals" in Washington. Moreover, Cochran's seniority is questioned, noting "Thad Cochran is entitled to respect. He's not entitled to a lifetime seat in the Senate."

Club for Growth spent $2.5 million supporting McDaniel before the primary vote.

Cochran, 76, has been in the Senate since 1978. McDaniel will turn 42 later this month.

McDaniel has criticized federal spending in a state that relies heavily on federal money. McDaniel declares on his website that Washington suffers from a "spending addiction" and is "incapable of keeping its promises to cut spending." McDaniel said he will not vote for higher debt limits without more cuts. This mantra is obviously playing well given that McDaniel has momentum after the primary. Yet, Mississippi receives somewhere between $2.08 and $2.47 in federal spending for every $1 in federal taxes collected in the state. Only New Mexico, Alaska and West Virginia consistently rely so heavily on federal coffers.

Cochran, on the other hand, told reporters during the farm bill debate that he never lost votes in Mississippi supporting food-stamp benefits for his constituents.

Farmers for Thad highlights Cochran's work on the 2014 farm bill and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act as evidence that the senator is looking out for the interests of Mississippi agriculture.

“As a young producer, I am grateful to farm in a state that is represented by a strong supporter of agriculture,” said Jack. “I have seen Sen. Cochran’s hard work and determination to make sure Mississippi farmers and Mississippi agriculture is well represented in Washington. Recently Sen. Cochran championed the Farm Bill and the WRRDA Bill that pay direct dividends for Mississippians. The farm bill protects farmers from volatile weather conditions, which have led to both droughts and flooding in so many rural Mississippi communities in recent years; and the WRRDA bill creates jobs in our state by investing in the waterways and ports that we use to bring our products to market. What’s equally important, too, is that both of these laws make great strides for Mississippi farmers while reducing wasteful spending and streamlining government programs.”

Chris Clayton can be reached at chris.clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 3:52PM CDT 06/12/14 by Chris Clayton
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