Biden nominates Robert Bonnie for conservation role

If confirmed, the USDA’s senior adviser for climate will become the under secretary for farm production and conservation

President Joe Biden has nominated Robert Bonnie to serve as Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Bonnie serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Adviser for Climate at USDA. He led the USDA Transition Team for the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, and he served in the Obama-Biden Administration as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment as well as Senior Adviser for the Environment and Climate.

“He is one of the nation’s foremost authorities and leaders on working lands approaches to conservation and incentive-based climate and conservation practices for farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “Under Robert’s steady hand, America’s farmers, ranchers, producers and landowners will see renewed focus on building and maintaining markets at home and abroad and preparing our food and agricultural community to lead the world in climate-smart agricultural practices. Robert will be committed to working with U.S. farmers and landowners to help feed Americans and the world and make climate smart practices work for them in a market-oriented way—a way that creates new streams of income, a cleaner energy future and a biobased manufacturing revolution.”

Prior to joining USDA, Bonnie was at Duke University, first as a Rubenstein Fellow and later as an Executive in Residence at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions working on conservation and environmental issues in rural America. In 2020, he also worked with the Bipartisan Policy Center on its Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Initiative.

Previously, Bonnie was vice president for land conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) where he focused on developing incentives to reward farmers, ranchers and forest owners for stewardship activities on private lands. At EDF, he helped develop the Safe Harbor program and other incentive-based approaches to endangered species conservation.

Bonnie has master’s degrees in forestry and environmental management from Duke University. He grew up on a farm in Kentucky and lives in Virginia.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall congratulated Bonnie on the nomination.

“Robert’s experience as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment and as Senior Adviser to Secretary Vilsack at USDA has given him firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers. We appreciate his outreach and engagement with Farm Bureau during his tenure with the Biden administration and we are hopeful he will remain fully engaged with farmers and ranchers in his new role,” Duvall said in a statement. “We look forward to the nomination process and we hope to build on our relationship with Robert to ensure farm, crop and conservation programs allow farmers and ranchers to continue putting food on tables across the country.”