Biden Teams Include Obama Appointees

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2020

USDA, EPA Teams Include Key Figures from Obama Administration

Joe Biden's transition teams for USDA, EPA and the United States Trade Representative include a number of former Obama administration employees. (DTN file photo)
Joe Biden’s transition teams for USDA, EPA and the United States Trade Representative include a number of former Obama administration employees. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) — President-elect Joe Biden has announced a number of presidential transition teams including those for USDA, EPA and the United States Trade Representative, led by a number of former Obama administration officials.

President Donald Trump continues to dispute the election with litigation in close states. His administration also is blocking Biden’s staff from access to government resources.

Biden’s USDA team is led by Robert Bonnie, the current farm and forest initiative director at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s energy project, according to Biden’s transition website,….

Bonnie served as undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA from 2013 to 2017 and worked as a senior advisor to then U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from 2009 to 2013.

Bonnie has a connection to the environmental community, serving as vice president for land conservation at the Environmental Defense Fund. In all, the USDA team includes 17 members.

Another notable addition to the USDA team is Jonathan Coppess, director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program, director of the Bock Ag Law Policy Program and assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Urbana.

On July 9, 2009, Coppess was administrator of the USDA Farm Service Agency by Vilsack.

Also appointed to the USDA team is Debra Eschmeyer, director of global business development in the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.]

Eschmeyer is the former executive director of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and senior White House policy advisor for nutrition.

The USDA team also includes Gregory L. Parham, former assistant secretary of agriculture for administration in 2013. Before that appointment Parham was acting assistant secretary and served as administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS.

Other notable appointments include Sanah Baig at the Good Food Institute; Kumar Chandran from FoodCorps; and LaQuita Honeysucker with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

The Biden team also named Patrice Lumumba Simms to lead the EPA transition team. Simms is the current vice president of litigation for healthy communities at Earthjustice.

Simms served in the Obama administration from February 2010 to August 2011 as deputy assistant attorney general in the environment and natural resources division in the U.S. Department of Justice.

In that role, Simms supervised the division’s law and policy section, land acquisition section and environmental defense.

Simms previously served as a staff attorney in the EPA’s office of general counsel and as a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Simms is joined on the EPA team by Ken Kopocis, a law professor at American University.

Kopocis served as the deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s office of water during the Obama administration and helped to develop the 2015 waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. That rule has been replaced with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

Also joining the EPA team is Cynthia Giles, a guest fellow in the energy and environmental law program at Harvard University and former assistant administrator of the office of enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. She served at EPA from 2009 to 2017.

The EPA team includes Joseph Goffman, executive director of the environmental and energy law program at Harvard University. He previously served as Democratic chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and was associate assistant administrator for climate and senior counsel to the assistant administrator for air and radiation at EPA.

The EPA team of 12 members also includes Alejandra Nunez, an attorney with the Sierra Club and Ann Dunkin, chief technology officer, state and local government at Dell Technologies and a former EPA employee.

Jason Miller has been tabbed by Biden to lead the U.S. Trade Representative review.

Miller is a member of the Brookings Institution and former deputy assistant and deputy director of the National Economic Council in the Obama administration.

Todd Neeley can be reached at