Collin Peterson on Top of Many Lists for New USDA Secretary

November 25, 2008 06:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Iowa's Patty Judge also mentioned

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The fledgling Obama administration is already the most Congress-centric in decades.

Lawmakers rule in Obamaland. The President- and Vice President-elect (Joe Biden) are both former senators. The next Secretary of State is widely expected to be current Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was a House Democratic kingpin from Illinois. Former Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) is expected to be tapped to be Commerce Secretary. And former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) will head Health and Human Services (HHS).

So what about the USDA Secretary? The Congress-centric formula would suggest current House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who of late has gone out of his way to say he doesn't want the job (that is always a plus to at least being a potential candidate for the job), rather than former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa) who I am told hired a public relations firm to tout his name.

If Peterson is tapped, he would take it because it is very difficult to turn a president down -- especially a president that is calling for change, and Peterson wants change -- USDA reorganization (what better way then to do it from the inside), mandatory animal identification, etc. And who better to help signal farm policy budget cuts in the years ahead than the guy who had a very big role in the latest farm bill? However, other observers note that Collin has "wrinkled his nose" at the potential limitations that come with the job -- that when the President makes a decision on an issue, there is no "wiggle" room for the cabinet secretary.

If Peterson were tapped, an outside-Washington person would very likely be tapped for Deputy Secretary at USDA. Another person on the so-called short-list for Ag Secretary could fill that role if she wanted it -- Patty Judge, currently Lt. Governor of Iowa and a former long-time Ag Secretary for the State of Iowa.

If Peterson exits the House, Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) is currently Vice Chairman of the House Ag panel.

Comments: If the USDA Secretary choice is at or near the last tier of Cabinet posts announced, President Obama will look at the geographic mix of the Cabinet selections previously announced, along with the ethnicity mix, and that could help determine who among the short-list becomes his actual choice to lead USDA.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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