Updated with Sen. Stabenow's comment.
President Trump intends to nominate Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.
USDA created the new position of Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs in May as directed by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised both men.
“For our new under secretary 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," Perdue said. "Ted McKinney is that person. His longstanding background in agriculture, economic development, and global issues will make him an unapologetic advocate for U.S. products in the world marketplace.”
“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," Perdue said. "He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need. Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve.”
Meet Ted McKinney
McKinney is Indiana Agriculture Director who served on Trump's agriculture advisory committee during the campaign.
Vice President Mike Pence appointed McKinney to be Indiana's Agriculture Department in 2014, according to the IndyStar.
McKinney grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Tipton. He received a degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University. He has worked at Dow AgroSciences and Elanco.
Meet Sam Clovis
Like McKinney, Clovis served on Trump's agriculture advisory committee during the campaign. He has been serving as a USDA liaison to the White House since Trump took office.
A native of Hinton, Iowa, Clovis is a U.S. Air Force veteran who was an economics professor at Morningside College and radio talk show host before he entered politics, running for U.S. Senate and Iowa state treasurer in 2014, according to Radio Iowa.
The American Soybean Association expressed its support for Ted McKinney to fill the newly established Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs post at USDA, and Sam Clovis as Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.
“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,” said ASA President Ron Moore, a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill. “In his role as director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and is his previous leadership roles within the agriculture industry, Ted has exemplified the understanding of how as American farmers our work impacts and is impacted by the world around us.”
McKinney’s prospective position in the newly created Undersecretary for Trade post at USDA is one that ASA and other agriculture groups have long advocated for, including in a letter to the White House in late February.
“Dr. Clovis’ Iowa and rural Kansas roots will serve him well as the department moves to serve farmers in the fields of research and economics," Moore said. "Dr. Clovis understands the importance of agricultural research to farmers, our ongoing success, and the success of future generations of farmers. He also is well acquainted with the economic issues facing farmers and ranchers. We will look to Dr. Clovis to help advance USDA’s mission in these important fields.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists is calling the nomination of Clovis, who lacks a background in science and who is a climate change denier, "unacceptable and illegal."
“This is another example of the Trump administration sidelining science and rejecting evidence-based decision-making, once again working against the interests of American farmers, rural communities and consumers," said Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a media statement. “If President Trump wants to keep Americans safe and healthy, ensure prosperity for farmers and rural communities, and follow the law, this nomination is the wrong choice.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has concerns about the appointment of Clovis.
“While Steve Censky and Ted McKinney stand out as experienced candidates to serve in USDA leadership roles, I have strong concerns that Sam Clovis is not qualified to be USDA Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics, which dually serves as the Department’s Chief Scientist," Stabenow said in a media statement. "This nominee seems to lack the necessary agricultural science and research qualifications that are required by the Farm Bill. I also have many questions about his troubling views on climate change and providing public investment in crop insurance and education.
Source: USDA, ASA, UCS