Who’s on the short list for key ag seats in Biden Cabinet?

Who’s on the short list for key ag seats in Biden Cabinet?

Divya777 | Bigstock.com

Find out who is likely to lead USDA, EPA and USTR under the next administration

As President-elect Joe Biden considers his Cabinet appointments, the position of Secretary of Agriculture seems to be much sought after by several people with a range of ideologies, according to Constance Cullman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA).

“Biden has stated that he intends to assemble a Cabinet that is diverse in both ideology and background, so it will be interesting to see how that manifests itself, but USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) could be one of the first battlegrounds between progressives and the more moderate Democrats out there,” Cullman said recently during AFIA’s Equipment Manufacturers Conference.

These names are among the people thought to be under consideration for Secretary of Agriculture:

  • Marcia Fudge, the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district
  • Heidi Heitkamp, former senator from North Dakota
  • Krysta Harden, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration
  • Chellie Pingree, the U.S. Representative for Maine’s 1st congressional district
  • Kathleen Merrigan, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration
  • Cheri Bustos, the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 17th congressional district
  • Michael Scuse, former Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Acting Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration

They are all “very different candidates,” Cullman said. “Bustos and Heitkamp are more moderates, Marcia Fudge is going to be paying much more attention to nutrition, but I expect her to also be interested in making a run for the ag committee chair in the House.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, was defeated during the November 3 election, losing his congressional seat to Republican Michelle Fischbach. With Peterson’s election upset, there will be significant changes to the leadership in the House and Senate agriculture committees.

Action on climate change at EPA

One of Biden’s top priorities is addressing climate change, and that will be reflected in his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Those under consideration to head up the EPA are:

  • Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board
  • Heather McTeer Toney, former Regional Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Southeast region during the Obama administration
  • Jay Inslee, Washington governor

“The one thing they all have in common: air, air, air. So we expect to see a lot of action on climate change at EPA,” Cullman said.

Former ag negotiator for USTR?

Also important to the agriculture industry is the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Among those under consideration are:

  • Ron Kind, the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 3rd congressional district
  • Darci Vetter, former U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator during the Obama administration

“Darci’s been a longtime friend of U.S. agriculture and would definitely be someone that we would be able to work with quite a bit and already knows a lot of our issues,” Cullman said.

However, she added, several incoming legislators are not as familiar with the ag industry, and getting them up to speed will be important.

“With the number of folks that have come in that do not have experience on agriculture, the need for educating continues to grow and it’s bigger now than ever before,” she said.