WASHINGTON, June 5, 2017 - President-elect Donald Trump is continuing his search for an agriculture secretary. At least one more potential candidate has an interview at Trump Tower today.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts discussed the issue with Vice President-elect Mike Pence yesterday during a closed-door meeting with GOP senators. Roberts said after the meeting that the agriculture secretary search was still “fluid.” Roberts declined to say whether he had discussed individual names with Pence.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters yesterday that Trump continues to meet with “highly qualified individuals” about the USDA job.
Spicer went on to say that the cabinet pick will be someone who “understands and demonstrates the greatest ability to implement the president’s agenda and make America great again.”
Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue still appears to be very much in the mix. Perdue wouldn’t add the ethnic diversity to Trump’s cabinet selections that the transition team seemed to be seeking.
But one source close to Trump’s agricultural advisory team believes that resistance to Perdue appears to have fallen away in recent days, clearing the way for his nomination.
Pruitt to meet with farm-state senators. Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, will be on Capitol Hill this afternoon to discuss biofuel policy with a group of farm-state Republican senators, including Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Pruitt has opposed the RFS, but allies of the biofuel industry are counting on Trump to ensure that Pruitt enforces the biofuel mandates in a way that protects the health of the ethanol and biodiesel sectors.
One of the senators who will be in the meeting, John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters yesterday that he’s “pretty confident” that the Trump administration will maintain the RFS.
Environmental group set to fight nominees, Trump agenda. Rhea Suh, CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says her 2-million-member organization is gearing up to fight not just Pruitt but three other Trump nominees: Rex Tillerson for State, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke for Interior and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy.
Suh says Tillerson is a “walking conflict of interest,” even though under his leadership Exxon Mobil acknowledged man-made climate change and supported a tax on carbon. “Handing over U.S. global policy to a big oil chief is a mistake,” she said.
NRDC is widely seen as one of the more effective environmental advocacy outfits in the country, particularly on the issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Suh says NRDC has gained more members since the election, but the group’s government affairs director, David Goldston, says NRDC’s expenses are growing, too.
NRDC’s policy experts say they expect Republicans to “overreach” in their efforts to roll back environmental protection, much as they did when they tried to weaken ethics oversight, which prompted a backlash from voters and an about-face by the GOP.
House to vote on CFTC reauthorization. The House will be debating a CFTC reauthorization bill next week as Republicans continue to move a series of bills aimed to rolling back President Obama’s regulatory agenda.
A similar bill passed the House in 2015, but died in the Senate because of Democratic resistance, and the new legislation could face the same fate.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, says the version that the new version will drop some provisions that are no longer needed but will cap annual appropriations for the agency at the existing level.
Other details of the new bill aren’t available yet.
Newhouse gets Appropriations seat. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a former Washington state agriculture director, has been awarded a coveted seat on the House Appropriations Committee, which deterimines spending for all government agencies.
There is no word yet on whether Newhouse will have to give up his seat on the House Agriculture Committee.
Newhouse also has had an important seat on the Rules Committee, which decides what amendments get debated on the House floor.
EPA shutting down RIN auditor. EPA is moving to end a company’s role in the RFS program because of its involvement in verifying fraudulent Renewable Identification Numbers generated by two other firms. The targeted company, Genscape, has been serving as a third-party auditor for certifying RINs generated by biofuel producers.
The EPA’s proposed action would strip the company of its ability to verify future RINs and replace the 68 million invalid ones. EPA says it is “aggressively pursuing bad actors in the RFS program to maintain a level playing field for firms that play by the rules.”
Genscape, which provides data and analysis on energy and commodities, didn’t respond to a request to comment on the EPA actions.
Smithfield: Housing conversion nearly complete. Smithfield Foods, says it is on schedule to finish converting sow housing systems in all of its company-owned farms by the end of this year. The company says 87 percent of its sows have now been transitioned into group housing from the old systems that use gestation stalls. That’s a 6 percent increase from 2015.
He said it. “Tell him to relax.” - Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., when asked about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments last month that Trump was moving too slowly to set up his team at USDA.
Steve Davies and Spencer Chase contributed to this report.