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Inauguration Nears Without Nominee for Agriculture Secretary

Like other farm leaders, Senator Charles Grassley [R-IA] says he’s at a loss to explain why President-elect Donald Trump has waited so long to name his nominee for agriculture secretary. Trump “has met with numerous people,” Grassley told reporters, so “you can’t say he has ignored” the position, although the long wait has inspired grumbling, and now rumors, in farm country.

The delay has inspired speculation that Trump plans an overhaul of USDA. But the only unresolved issue at the moment is a provision in the 2014 farm law to create an undersecretary for trade at USDA. Former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack has left that question for his Trump successor. The options range from creating a new office with a small staff to redrawing the organization map for half of USDA.

Politico says there is a tug-of-war within the Trump team and no one in power to make the call. “At the same time that agribusiness leaders are pushing one of their own for the job, some in Trump’s inner circle have been aggressively pushing to add diversity to the Cabinet” by naming a Hispanic, says Politico. “But even those asking for a Latino acknowledge that the pool is especially small for agriculture — a field that’s dominated by old, white men.”

A former White House official says incoming administrations are taken by surprise by the vast portfolio held by USDA, from farm subsidies and food stamps to the national forests.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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