DETROIT -- It's been quite a few years since a Michigan senator chaired the chamber's Agriculture Committee.
To be exact, it's been more than 120.
The long drought finally is coming to an end with Friday's announcement that Sen. Debbie Stabenow will head up the panel during the next term.
The two-term Lansing Democrat has served on agriculture committees in the Senate, U.S. House and Michigan Legislature and says she's "ready to lead" the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in the 112th Congress.
"Agriculture is critical to Michigan's economy, employing a quarter of our work force," said Stabenow, whose committee will be tasked with writing a new farm bill.
The ag chair job is the second leadership post the 60-year-old lawmaker has picked up in recent days. Stabenow also is the new vice chairwoman of the Democratic message and rapid response operation, serving under Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
The higher-profile jobs come at a good time for Stabenow, who is up for re-election in two years' time and will be running in a state that gave big victories to Republicans earlier this month.
The Agriculture Committee chairmanship opened when Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln was defeated in the Nov. 2 general election.
Stabenow expressed interest in heading the committee but had to wait for a decision from North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and senior to Stabenow on agriculture. Conrad considered a move to the Agriculture Committee, but on Friday he opted to stick with the Budget Committee chairmanship.
Michigan's farming community lauded Stabenow's appointment.
"Sen. Debbie Stabenow is an outstanding advocate for agriculture in Michigan and across the nation," said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. "She has a proven track record of standing up for agriculture in Michigan, which produces more than 200 agriculture commodities and leads the nation in 11 of those."
Stabenow's selection comes at a time when agriculture is growing, providing a rare bright spot in the nation's economy, Byrum said.
According to figures provided by Stabenow's office, agriculture represents nearly 20 percent of Michigan's overall economic engine and is the second-largest industry in the state. Michigan has 10 million acres of farmland and is second only to California in the diversity of its crops.
Stabenow is the first Michigan senator to even sit on the agriculture committee since Philip Hart in the 1960s and is the first chair since Thomas Palmer in the late 1880s, her office said.