Ag industry weighs in with support for both candidates
By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content
U.S. President Trump continues to fill positions within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), announcing two more nominations yesterday.
The President nominated Ted McKinney, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, to be the undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis, a chief policy advisor during Trump’s presidential campaign, a former professor of economics at Morningside College in Iowa and a radio talk show host, to be the undersecretary for research, education and economics.
In the case of McKinney, his role, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, would be to “promote U.S. food, fiber and fuel around the world,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a May 12 address.
And Clovis would oversee a variety of science-related agencies including the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Economic Research Service and National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The nominees received warm welcomes from their potential boss.
“For our new undersecretary position emphasizing international trade, I have always said that I want someone who wakes up every morning asking how we can sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets. Ted McKinney is that person,” Secretary Perdue said in statement released yesterday.
“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture. He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need,” he said.
Ag industry groups lend support for McKinney
A number of U.S. farm groups echoed support for McKinney’s nomination.
American Soybean Association (ASA):
“Ted McKinney is a person that understands the global nature of our business, and has represented farmers well in both the public and private sectors. ASA supports Ted’s nomination and looks to the Senate to quickly confirm him.”
National Corn Growers Association:
“Mr. McKinney is an excellent choice to fill this new role. He has a longstanding record of service to the agriculture industry and will be a strong advocate for U.S. agriculture on the global stage. We urge the Senate to move quickly to confirm him, so that our industry is in the best position to capitalize on increased global demand for our products.”
National Association of Wheat Growers:
“McKinney’s leadership experience as Indiana’s Agriculture Director and longstanding background in trade make him an ideal candidate for this position. The U.S. wheat industry applauds the Administration’s choice and calls for a quick confirmation hearing in the Senate.”
Some pushback over Clovis
In the spring, when news outlets reported that President Trump may nominate Clovis for this role, the Union of Concerned Scientists raised concerns over his past views.
“If the president goes forward with this nomination, it’ll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees,” Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a May 13 statement.
“Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart.”
The concerns stem from a 2014 interview in which Clovis suggested some research isn’t reliable.
“A lot of the science (surrounding climate change) is junk science. I could probably be convinced but right now I’m not,” Clovis said in a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio.
But the ASA and CropLife America have welcomed Dr. Clovis, saying his background in economics and research will help serve America’s farmers.
"(Dr. Clovis) understands the importance of relying on sound science and data to make important decisions that will affect the ability of growers to provide food for the U.S. and the world," Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, said in a July 20 statement."
Top photo: Ted McKinney, left, and Dr. Sam Clovis were nominated for top USDA positions.