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D.C. News...

published: November 27th 2020
by: Martha Hollida Garrett

Who’s on the short list for the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture?

As election results are still being counted and challenged, names are surfacing that Joe Biden, if certified as the next president, might select for the Secretary of Agriculture cabinet appointment.
    Names in circulation include former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Reps. Mar-cia Fudge (Ohio) and Cheri Bustos (Ill.).
    Heitkamp, North Dako-ta’s first woman senator who served from 2013 to 2019, sat on the Agriculture Committee, helping to pass two farm bills. She previously sponsored legislation that would establish a fund to promote agricultural commodity exports, assist farmers hurt by tariffs, and support opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers, among other bills. 
    She lost her seat to Republican Kevin Cra-mer, a Trump loyalist, and moved on to address U.S. rural issues as a founding board member of the One Country Project. 
    Two-time Iowa Gov. Vilsack led the Agriculture Department for eight years under President Barack Obama‘s administration. During that time, the agency focused on conservation, expanded agricultural trade, and opportunities for rural communities. Discrimination cases by minorities against the de-partment were also re-solved. 
    He’s now the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Vilsack declined to comment. 
    Fudge, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, often bucked the Trump administration’s attempts to narrow federal food assistance requirements as leader of the Nu-trition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee. She’s confronted Republicans over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provisions during farm bill negotiations, and has tried to address racial inequities in agriculture. 
    A liberal Democrat, she’s a member of the Con-gressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Pro-gressive Caucus. Fudge’s team declined to comment. 
    Agriculture Committee member Bustos is the only Midwesterner in House Democratic leadership. Following a tough election for the party, the Demo-cratic Congressional Cam-paign Committee chairwoman announced in a letter sent to the Democratic Caucus that she won’t run for the position again.
    Bustos, a centrist, represents a heavily rural district. She’s sponsored bills to invest in agriculture research (H.R. 4714) and boost exports by small- and medium-sized enterprises.
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