Yesterday, President Donald Trump nominated Sam Clovis—a climate skeptic with no science background—as the US Department of Agriculture’s “chief scientist.” A former Trump campaign advisor and conservative talk radio host, Clovis will face Senate confirmation to fill the post that US law states should go to someone with “specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
Clovis’ name was floated as early as May, when my colleague Tom Philpott reported on a slew of Trump’s picks for the USDA. Clovis, for one, holds a doctorate in public administration and worked for defense contractor Northrop Grumman. In a 2014 interview, he described himself as “extremely skeptical” of climate science. He defected from Rick Perry’s shaky 2016 presidential campaign after secretly calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism” in a series of leaked emails. His future colleagues—among them Steve Censky and Ted McKinney, both of whom Trump has nominated—have come through the revolving door between agribusiness and the USDA. They’ve worked with the likes of Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and pharma giant Eli Lilly.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the agriculture committee, said in a statement that she has “strong concerns that Sam Clovis is not qualified” to be under secretary for research, education, and economics, pointing to his “troubling views on climate change.” She, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, and the Union of Concerned Scientists have raised concerns that Clovis’ qualifications may not meet the minimum requirements set by US law—with the UCS even calling Clovis’ nomination “illegal.”
Want to feel sad about the future of our food, farms, and forests? Read Philpott’s full piece here.