The research section of the USDA studies everything from nutrition to climate change, and according to the 2008 Farm Bill the “chief scientist” is supposed to leader “among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
President Donald Trump’s pick, Sam Clovis, doesn’t seem to have any of those credentials. He has never taken science as part of his graduate course and questions the legitimacy of climate change.
Although he has a doctorate in public administration and taught business and public policy at Morningside College for ten years, he barely published any academic work.
Clovis had made a reputation for himself as a conservative talk radio show in Iowa and an avid Trump supporter. He is currently working as the senior White House advisor within the USDA and has been described by the Washington Post as “Trump’s eyes and ears” at the agency.
Clovis also helped recruit Carter Page, who is under intense investigation for his ties to Russia. When asked about Clovis’ nomination to be the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics, neither he, the USDA, nor the White House gave a comment.
Catherine Woteki, who Obama appointed as the undersecretary during his tenure, said the appointment is like having someone with no medical background lead the National Institute of Health.
“This position is the chief scientist of the department of agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there,” Woteki said in an interview.
“Access to safe food and clean air and water is absolutely fundamental to personal security,” she said, insisting that a scientific understanding of food safety is necessary to succeed in the job. “Food systems are widely recognized by the national security community as being part of critical infrastructure.”