WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump heads to Iowa for a victory rally tonight, having made some major decisions on nominations that are critical to agriculture: His picks for EPA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Still to come: USDA and Interior. 

Heitkamp still seen as cabinet candidate. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., tells Agri-Pulse that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is “clearly in the running”  for a job at USDA or another land agency.

Cramer met with Trump on Monday in New York and says that the president-elect wanted to know how Heitkamp is viewed in Washington. Cramer assured Trump that she’s well-liked. “He talked a little bit about her, where she might fit in, how she might contribute,” Cramer said.

Cramer, who has been in the running himself for Energy secretary, said Trump pressed him on whether he wanted to join the cabinet or stay in Congress. Cramer said he was neutral, an answer that frustrated Trump, he said. 

If Heitkamp joins the cabinet, Cramer has a wide open path to take over her Senate seat in a special election.

WOTUS fighter gets EPA. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who made a name for himself battling the Obama administration over the “waters of the U.S.” rule and other key parts of President Obama’s regulatory agenda, will be nominated as administrator of the EPA

Pruitt would make good on Trump’s promise to agriculture interests to roll back Obama’s regulations. But there’s still a question how Pruitt will approach the Renewable Fuel Standard. He’s been critical of the mandates and corn ethanol in particular. 

The National Corn Growers Association has declined to comment on Pruitt’s nomination. But John Collison, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau's vice president of public policy, tells Agri-Pulse that Pruitt is likely to take a more nuanced stance on the RFS when he gets to Washington.

“When he’s representing the people of Oklahoma, he looks at it one way, but I will tell you this guy is an American, this guy is as smart as can be, and I think when he gets on the national level, he will be fair and honest with everybody,” Collison said. 

Listen to more of the Collison interview here

Trump: We’ll protect the land. Perhaps expecting outrage from environmentalists over Pruitt, Trump promised in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that he would honor the “legacy of Theodore Roosevelt” and “protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation, including protecting lands for anglers, hunters and all who enjoy the outdoors.”

No conflict for Pruitt? There have been questions about whether Pruitt would have to recuse himself from issues such as WOTUS since he filed lawsuits against the agency. But energy industry lobbyist Scott Segal notes that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy herself once sued the agency when she ran a state agency in Massachusetts. 

“There is no conflict in representing your state on litigation dealing with rules of general applicability and then serving your nation as a federal official,” Segal said. 

Retired General gets Homeland Security, SBA goes to wrestling exec. Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security and wrestling executive Linda McMahon to take over the Small Business Administration. 

Little is known about Kelly’s approach to immigration policy, but the bigger concern for agricultural interests is whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will wind up at the department as well. 

Kobach, a hard-liner on immigration enforcement, helped write state e-Verifty laws that have had “devastating” impact on farmers in Georgia and Alabama, says Frank Gasperini, vice president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. 

China welcomes Branstad pick. Trump may be taking a good-cop-bad-cop strategy toward China with his selection of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China. China’s foreign ministry praised the selection of Branstad, who has a longtime relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Branstad’s selection comes as Trump has been stacking his transition team at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office with lawyers who are experienced in bringing trade cases against China. 

Tom Dorr, a former president of the U.S. Grains Council who has traveled in China extensively, says Branstad is “an exceptional politician regardless of the stage on which he is to be set.  He will be an asset in a locale where we need them desperately.” 

Drought aid hangs in balance. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe says he still expects the Senate to pass a water projects bill by this weekend despite a filibuster threat over some California drought relief provisions. 

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who supports the measure, wasn’t so sure yesterday. Her home-state colleague, Barbara Boxer, is trying to block the legislation. “Everything is difficult at this time,” Feinstein said.

World Food Prize honors Vilsack. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke to the Iowa Farm Bureau yesterday, also accepted the Norman E. Borlaug Medallion from the World Food Prize. WFP President Kenneth Quinn said the medallion honors USDA “for its extraordinary development and promotion of American farming for over 150 years.

Quinn said Vilsack is “deserving of special recognition” for his efforts, as Iowa's governor and as agriculture secretary, to promote the World Food Prize and “especially to help inspire the next generation of young agricultural leaders.”

Trump’s House Agriculture connection. Have you ever met someone who turns out to be an old classmate you didn’t realize you had? That happened to Georgia Democrat David Scott, a member of the House Agriculture Committee who's a 1969 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton business school.

Four years ago, he and other members of the House Blue Dog Coalition were at a retreat in New York when Trump invited the lawmakers to lunch at Trump Tower. Introductions commenced, and Trump, a 1968 Wharton grad, pointed out his connection with Scott.

Scott chuckled yesterday as he recalled what Trump said: ““Oh yeah, that’s David Scott. He went to the Wharton School of Finance. I went to Wharton. I’m smart, so if I went to the Wharton school and I’m smart, David Scott went to Wharton school … you know how he is.”

Scott was just the third African American to get a Wharton degree.

Spencer Chase and Daniel Enoch contributed to this report.


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