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Jacobs-Young wins Senate approval as USDA chief scientist

The Senate confirmed Chavonda Jacobs-Young as USDA undersecretary for research on Tuesday, the first woman of color to hold the post. As undersecretary, Jacobs-Young — a supporter of genetic engineering — will also be USDA’s chief scientist.

“I know she will help protect scientific integrity at the USDA and build a diverse and resilient scientific workforce,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. “She has held leadership roles at multiple research agencies at the USDA and the White House.” House Agriculture chairman David Scott said he was “particularly excited to see someone with such as strong career in research” leading USDA’s research and extension agencies.

Jacobs-Young, confirmed on a 95-4 vote, was the fifth of Biden’s USDA nominees for undersecretary to win Senate confirmation. Action is pending on the three remaining nominees. Each of the eight undersecretaries oversee a part of USDA’s broad portfolio, from public nutrition and the national forests to farm subsidies and rural economic development.

“I hope I have expanded the perception of what an agricultural scientist looks like,” said Jacobs-Young, who holds a doctorate in wood and paper science, during her confirmation hearing in January. “My passion for science and fascination with understanding how things work have been constants in my life, from receiving my first chemistry set in elementary school to running my own lab as a faculty member at the University of Washington.”

The only votes against Jacobs-Young came from Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lisa Murkowski and Don Sullivan of Alaska.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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