USDA’s Top Science Position May Go To Non-Scientist

President Donald Trump may nominate a non-scientist to fill the Department of Agriculture’s top science job.

Sam Clovis is a former economics professor and talk radio host in Iowa, and an adviser to the Trump campaign last year. He helped run USDA before Secretary Sonny Perdue took office.

But, Clovis is not a scientist. Yet the White House is considering nominating Clovis for USDA undersecretary of research, education and economics—a top-level science post that oversees USDA’s scientific mission, and the ’08 Farm Bill says should be filled by a “distinguished scientist.”

The post also oversees the National Ag Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service, which would fit Clovis’ background. But those filling the post have included a doctor, nutritionist, ecologist, and a plant physiologist.

Any move to appoint a veteran GOP activist for a science post could make for a rough Senate confirmation process. Senate Ag Democrats led by Debbie Stabenow, attacked the administration at a hearing last week for its moves the week before at EPA…

5-17 Stabenow 1               :13             …”strong concerns.”

“Late last week, in a very concerning and abrupt move, the agency dismissed several members of its board of scientific counselors.   This is a highly unusual move that has raised strong concerns.”                   

And Iowa Republican Joni Ernst at the same hearing last week, questioning a USDA witness on pesticide registration reform…

5-17 Stabenow 2               :24             …”reviewing pesticides.”

“You noted on your testimony that agriculture depends on a strong, scientifically-based EPA to evaluate pesticides. 

What can you do on your role to encourage that, and ensure that politics don’t get in the way of sound science when it comes to reviewing pesticides.”      

Clovis, like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, has challenged the Obama Administration’s claims that human activity is the main cause of climate change…a claim that’s also divided the ag community. Clovis, as undersecretary, would oversee climate change issues affecting agriculture and forestry.


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