Senate Committee to act next week on 4 USDA picks, but not Clovis

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, September 29, 2017

The Senate Agriculture Committee will likely vote on two nominees for the Department of Agriculture next week and hold a hearing on two additional ones, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said today.

But the nominee who’s attracted the most division, Sam Clovis for undersecretary for research, education and economics, will have to wait.

Roberts told reporters that he’ll hold a vote on Stephen Censky for deputy secretary at USDA and Ted McKinney to be undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs next week, likely convening the committee swiftly during a Senate vote.

Censky comes from the American Soybean Association, where he has been CEO for 21 years. McKinney is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

“We continue to move as quickly as possible” on nominations, Roberts said. The committee has received six nominations for the department, he said.

A hearing on two other nominees — Iowa Agriculture Secretary William Northey for undersecretary for farm production and conservation, and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach for undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs — will be held next week, Roberts said.

In each case, Roberts said, nomination hearings cannot be scheduled until nominees meet with committee leaders and a review of their backgrounds and related paperwork is completed.

That process hasn’t occurred yet for Clovis, whose nomination faces opposition from the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), among other Democrats.

“We still have paperwork requirements there,” Roberts said when asked about Clovis’ nomination.

Clovis, a former economics professor and conservative radio talk show host in Iowa, has been criticized for his lack of science experience and his postings on racial politics during his radio-hosting days, including calling then-Attorney General Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”