Shea is acting chief of USDA; Biden freezes regulations

As acting secretary, Shea will direct USDA operations, with the advice of administration officials, until Biden appointees are confirmed by the Senate.

Kevin Shea, a longtime USDA official, became acting agriculture secretary with the arrival of the Biden administration on Wednesday, said a USDA spokesperson amid the appointment of several new officials. The White House also announced a freeze on new federal regulations and a review of recently issued rules that have not yet taken effect.

As acting secretary, Shea will direct USDA operations, with the advice of administration officials, until Biden appointees are confirmed by the Senate. A civil servant, Shea has been administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service since June 2013. He was acting deputy undersecretary for marketing, overseeing a number of USDA agencies, for nine months in 2017 during the transition to Trump leadership of the USDA.

Also on Wednesday, the USDA announced the appointment of six senior officials: Katharine Ferguson as USDA chief of staff; Gregory Parham as interim deputy assistant secretary for administration; Robert Bonnie as deputy USDA chief of staff and climate adviser; Sara Bleich as senior adviser on COVID-19; Kumar Chandran as senior adviser on nutrition; and Justo Robles as White House liaison. Ferguson is a former chief of staff for the White House Domestic Policy Council. Bonnie headed the Biden transition team for the USDA.

The regulatory freeze, announced by White House chief of staff Ron Klain, halts work by federal agencies on new rules and suggests a 60-day postponement in implementing rules that have not yet taken effect. Problematic regulations could be delayed further to resolve questions of fact, law, and policy.

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