To date, 22 agricultural industry groups have expressed support for Sam Clovis, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for research, education and economics (REE).
But statements by both Republicans and Democrats have cast a shadow over the nomination. Among them are comments by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Stabenow said in a prepared statement that Clovis “seems to lack the necessary agricultural science and research qualifications that are required by the Farm Bill.”
Stabenow was referring to language in the 2008 farm bill that states the Under Secretary must be selected “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
Both Stabenow and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, have also criticized Clovis for comments he made in 2013 and 2014, saying he believes crop insurance is unconstitutional. Some of the senators’ comments, made in late July during a hearing on commodity, crop insurance and credit programs, didn’t mention Clovis by name but were inferred.
"If there is some nominee who is coming before the committee who says crop insurance is unconstitutional, they might as well not show up," Roberts said at the time.
However, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has expressed support for Clovis who currently serves as the senior White House adviser to the USDA. In prepared statements, Perdue said Clovis “has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture.”
Agricultural groups in support of Clovis say they are confident the Trump nominee has the experience and qualities needed to fulfill the Under Secretary role effectively (a complete listing of the groups is provided below). Here is an excerpt from their letter of endorsement.
“Some have suggested that Dr. Clovis is not qualified for this position due to his lack of hands-on science and research experience. We do not share this point of view. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already employs some of the finest and most dedicated scientists in the world. They do not need a peer. They need someone to champion their work before the administration, the Congress, and all consumers around the world.
“Dr. Clovis is dedicated to preserving and improving this remarkable system. Most importantly, he is dedicated to making sure that the world’s best-available science is being used by all government agencies to determine appropriate regulatory and policy decisions.”
AgriTalk Radio’s Mike Adams reached out to Clovis earlier this week to ask him about the controversy over his appointment but his office declined the interview, saying he was unable to speak to the press at this time.
While the White House has forwarded the Clovis nomination to the Senate for consideration, no announcement has been made to date on when the Senate will address it.
Twenty-two ag industry groups have endorsed the Clovis nomination, including: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Barley Growers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Grange, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Potato Council, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Southwest Council of Agri-Business, United Egg Producers, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, U.S. Apple Association, USA Rice Federation, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Association, and the Western Growers Association.