By: Rosie McCall/IFL Science Trump announced plans to appoint ex-radio host, Sam Clovis, chief scientist of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) back in July 2017. And it may turn out to be one of his toughest nominations yet.
Technically, his title would be “undersecretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics” and, if approved by the Senate, he would have the responsibility of funding and coordinating the USDA’s research, education, and extension activities. By law, anyone appointed to this position must come “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
So who is Sam Clovis? He’s a former economics professor at Morningside College, Iowa, an Air Force veteran, and an ex-radio host. He has an undergraduate degree in political science and an MBA and doctorate in public administration. But he is not a scientist.
He is, however, a close ally of Trump’s. As an early backer of the Trump presidency and Donald’s campaign advisor on rural and agricultural issues, he has proved himself a loyal supporter – which, let’s face it, is worth far more to the current administration than experience.
Perhaps more shocking than his complete lack of qualifications for the job are his controversial (often hateful) beliefs. Unlike 97 percent or more of climate scientists and the vast majority of all scientists who accept that climate change is real, he’s referred to climate science as “junk science”. According to CNN, he’s also called homosexuality “a choice”, has said that marriage equality could lead to the legalization of pedophilia, and claims Barack Obama was “given a pass because he is black”. The list goes on.
At this stage, he is still a nominee. To be appointed, he must be approved by Congress. According to The Hill, the Democrats are likely to push back harder than they have on previous non-Cabinet appointments. One Democrat aide says blocking the nomination is a “high priority” for the party and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Brian Schatz have issued a statement against Clovis’ nomination.
“President Trump should withdraw the Clovis nomination immediately – not only because he is a proud ‘skeptic’ of climate change and wildly unqualified for the position of USDA chief scientist – but also as a gesture to the American people that this administration is serious about rooting out the most hateful voices in our society,” wrote Schumer and Schatz.
But while many have opposed the nomination, several major agriculture groups have proclaimed their support for Clovis. Twenty-two agricultural companies, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), have written to senators, saying: “They need someone to champion their work before the administration, the Congress, and all consumers around the world.” They think Clovis is the one to do it.
The Agriculture Committee is still waiting on paperwork, which they need before they can schedule the nomination hearing. But when it does eventually happen, it looks like it will be a close call.