Conrad Hires Agriculture Official to Help Negotiate Farm Bill

By Ellyn Ferguson, CQ Staff

Sen. Kent Conrad signaled Wednesday with the hiring of a former key aide that he plans to be an active player in shaping agriculture policy despite his announced retirement in 2012.

The North Dakota Democrat, chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said he has hired James W. Miller, who resigned Tuesday as the Agriculture Department’s undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural service to rejoin his old boss’s legislative team. He will be a lead negotiator for Conrad as Congress works on a 2012 farm bill.

Miller gave up his post the same day Conrad announced that he would not seek reelection to a sixth term in 2012.

Conrad said Miller “is deeply committed to farmers and ranchers and America’s rural communities.”

“His encyclopedic knowledge of ag policy has only increased while at USDA,” Conrad added. “I am fortunate to have him come back to my staff and put that experience and knowledge to work helping craft a new farm bill.”

Miller served as Conrad’s senior agriculture and trade analyst on the Budget Committee from 2004 to 2008 and as Conrad’s top negotiator on the 2008 farm law (PL 110-246).

President Obama nominated Miller, then the chief of staff for the National Farmers Union, in early 2009 for the Agriculture Department post. The Senate confirmed Miller as undersecretary on April 2, 2009. Miller is also a past government relations vice president for the National Association of Wheat Growers and operated his family’s farm in Washington state before moving to the East.

Conrad announced on Tuesday that he would not seek a sixth term in 2012. He included writing the 2012 farm bill and putting the federal government on a sound fiscal footing among his five priorities for his remaining two years in Congress.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan praised Miller’s work at the department.

“He has been an unbelievable champion for global trade, for farmers and ranchers overseas,” she said. “He will be impossible to replace and deeply missed by all of his colleagues here.”

Merrigan credited Miller’s work on a plan to limit payments to the network of private insurance agents who sell federal crop insurance policies with saving taxpayers $4 billion.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also praised Miller in a statement.

“Under his leadership, trade barriers have been broken and new records have been set for agricultural exports,” Vilsack said. “Jim’s leadership was instrumental in implementing the 2008 farm bill, while also improving how we deliver payments to farmers in the most timely and efficient way possible.”

Source: CQ Today Online News
Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill.
© 2011 CQ Roll Call All Rights Reserved.

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