Senate Advances USDA Appointees Censky And McKinney

October 31, 2017 04:21 AM
US Capitol

Senate Advances USDA Appointees Censky And McKinney

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue can no longer claim to be the only Senate-approved official at USDA. The Senate Ag Committee recommended approval of Steve Censky for deputy USDA secretary and Ted McKinney for under secretary for trade, and the full Senate gave the nominees a thumbs-up.

“I commend the Senate for confirming these two experienced, prepared and capable nominees, who will provide the steady leadership we need at USDA,” Perdue said in a released statement. “Steve Censky will help us be responsive to producers reeling from the effects of multiple hurricanes and also offer prudent counsel as Congress continues work on the 2018 farm bill.”

Perdue continued by focusing on the nominee for under secretary for trade: “Ted McKinney will take charge of the newly-created mission area focused on trade, and wake up every morning seeking to sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets. We eagerly await their arrival at USDA and urge the Senate to continue to act on other nominees who are awaiting confirmation.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., praised the Senate for quick action on the nominees and added, “Secretary Perdue, help is on the way.”  —John Herath

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Not Your Textbook Version Of Agricultural History

In titling his book “Against the Grain,” Yale anthropologist James Scott pulls off a double play. Not only does his account of how early states and agriculture developed sharply disagree with textbook dogma, but his criticism of the mixed blessing of switching to grain-based diets after sedentary ag became common will rankle many farmers who have long believed all civilization was solely about fixed food sources.

Scott offers convincing historical and logical arguments that the progression from hunting and gathering took far longer and yielded mixed results. Indeed, sedentary agriculture was not just based on domesticating plants and animals. Anthropology can demonstrate it changed humans, as well. Nor was hunting and gathering as precarious as usually portrayed. While threaded with a general political distrust of states, Scott offers a powerful case that the miracle of agriculture came with great costs (disease, taxes, slavery, poverty, etc.) and was a drawn-out competition with foraging over millennia, rather than narrowed to wheat and barley planting around 4,000 BCE.

This book represents fresh thinking about our profession’s benefit-cost ratio and a sobering accounting of what farming has done to our species and world.  —John Phipps

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