Senior Democrat on Senate Ag has ‘Strong Concerns’ About Clovis’ Qualifications
President Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist, college professor Sam Clovis, appears to lack the credentials for the job, said Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, which will vote on the nomination. The Union of Concerned Scientists said Clovis, “a vocal climate denier…is an unacceptable and illegal choice for this important role.”
The White House said Trump intends to nominate Clovis, his chief policy adviser and national co-chair of his presidential campaign, to be agriculture undersecretary for research and economics. Clovis is head of the Trump “beach head” team that directs USDA civil servants while the administration gets its politically oriented executives in place. To date, Secretary Sonny Perdue is the only nominee to go to a Senate vote.
“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,” said Stabenow, apparently the first senator to express concern about Clovis.
Stabenow intends to have a thorough vetting of all USDA nominees, said an aide. In a statement, Stabenow said two other Trump selections for USDA — Steve Censky for deputy secretary and Ted McKinney for undersecretary for trade — “stand out as experienced candidates,” but “I have strong concerns that Sam Clovis is not qualified” to be undersecretary for research, a post that also serves as USDA chief scientist.
ProPublica reported in mid-May that the 2008 farm law designated that the research undersecretary, as USDA chief scientist, be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” It said Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science, has published almost no academic work, “and is openly skeptical of climate change.” Clovis has hosted a conservative radio show and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.
“Official attack on science continues; Trump nominates unqualified climate-denying talk show host chief USDA scientist,” said Ricardo Salvador, head of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The UCS said Clovis has no background in science, is “a vocal climate denier,” and “an unacceptable and illegal choice for this important role that affects farmers, rural communities, and the health and nutrition of all Americans.”