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Trump's picks for top ag seats

Cattle and Beef Industry News
Sep 8, 2017
by WLJ

President sends dozens of nominations to senate

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sits with President Donald Trump at the Farmer’s Roundtable earlier in 2017.
USDA photo by Preston Keres.

President Donald Trump announced dozens of nominations last week. Several of the positions were relevant to agriculture, including upper-level USDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) positions. Though the senate has been slow to confirm Trump’s nominees, meaning these appointments likely won’t be cleared anytime soon, the new Forest Service Chief was also sworn in last week.

Last Monday, Trump sent a total of 46 appointment nominations to the senate. Three of those nominations were for top USDA positions.

All the appointments require senatorial approval, including the USDA positions. This will start the confirmation process. Thus far, senate confirmation of Trump’s nominees has been slower than his four presidential predecessors.

Trump tapped Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director, Greg Ibach, for the position of Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Among other things, this position oversees the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration.

Ibach has been the NDA director since 2005 and served as the assistant director for six years prior.

He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement in 2007. Ibach is a fifthgeneration cow/calf rancher and grain producer.

Bill Northey, current secretary of agriculture for Iowa, was nominated to be the USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm Production and Conservation. This is a new undersecretary position created in May 2017 as part of the USDA’s “reorganization.” The USDA described this new position as “to focus on domestic agricultural issues.” The position will oversee the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA).

The USDA additionally explained that, “A reduction in USDA workforce is not part of the reorganization plan.” The older position of undersecretary for natural resources and environment remains and is held by Robert Bonnie. The USDA described that position as keeping supervision of the U.S. Forest Service.

Northey has in the past been the chairman and president of the National Corn Growers Association. He is a fourth-generation farmer.

Finally, Trump nominated Stephen Alexander Vaden for the position of USDA general council. As with any general council position, this position is the chief law officer of the USDA. Vaden would handle all legal services for “all programs, operations, and activities of USDA” according to the USDA’s Office of the General Council.

Vaden received his law degree from Yale University in 2008 and began practicing law in 2009. His focuses are governmental regulation and political law. According to the White House announcement of the nomination, he is the son of a life-long farmer.

“I look forward to the confirmations of Greg Ibach, Bill Northey, and Stephen Vaden,” said Perdue in the USDA’s response to the nominations. He additionally urged the Senate to “take up their nominations as quickly as possible.”

“This is especially important given the challenges USDA will face in helping Texans and Louisianans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”

Trump also named two nominees for upper-level EPA positions. Matthew Leopold was tapped to be the EPA’s assistant administrator general counsel. He focuses on environmental law and represented the U.S. in the case against BP Exploration and Production, Inc. following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The other EPA pick was David Ross, nominated to be the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Water. According to the White House announcement of his nomination, Ross now serves as the director of the environmental protection unite for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. He holds a law degree (environmental law) from the Vermont Law School.

Forest Service Chief

The barrage of new nominations was not the only recent appointment news. On Friday, Sept. 1, Perdue swore in the new Chief of the Forest Service, Tony Tooke.

“Tony Tooke is truly a home-grown Chief, having worked his entire adult life for the Forest Service, and he comes on board at a time of great opportunity to reform our approach to forest management,” Perdue said during the swearing-in ceremony.

According to USDA information, Tooke has worked with the Forest Service in some capacity for 37 years, all his adult life. Most recently, he was the regional forester for the Southern Region.

Perdue praised Tooke’s record. Purdue additionally opined Tooke will help get the nation’s forests “working again” in relation to the ever-increasing costs of fire suppression.

“I am committed to finding a permanent solution to this budget imbalance, and Tony’s leadership will be key to accomplishing that goal.”

According to the USDA’s biography of Tooke, his most recent positions in the Forest Service have had him in the Washington D.C. office. Prior to being the regional forester for the Southern Region, he was the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System working out of D.C.

This position saw him dealing with environmental law and implementation of farm bill, among many other duties. — WLJ

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