WASHINGTON, D.C. — For farmers, one central question post-election is who, recounts and legal challenges notwithstanding, the Biden administration will appoint to Cabinet positions.
Experts say the appointments most likely to impact agriculture are Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Trade Representative, Department of Justice Antitrust Division leader, FEMA Administrator, Secretary of Labor and, external to the Cabinet, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
“Agriculture’s a funny beast, right? Almost every agency touches an aspect,” said Gail Greenman, director of national affairs at the Oregon Farm Bureau.
Some policy experts say it’s too early to make predictions.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to speculate on future appointments,” said Mike Tomko, spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Other experts say educated guesses can be made.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but with the help of policy experts, the Capital Press has compiled a list of contenders.
Experts say if the GOP maintains control of the Senate, every Biden nominee will need to win at least a few Republican confirmation votes – making appointments of far left-wing choices less likely.
Secretary of Agriculture
Biden may not choose a USDA chief immediately. Traditionally, presidents-elect make selections for Defense, Justice, State and Treasury first. In 2017, President Trump announced Sonny Perdue’s appointment the day before the inauguration.
Biden’s ag adviser, former Secretary Tom Vilsack, is backing North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for the position — a moderate Democrat who opposes trade wars and has pushed farm bills.
Other contenders include Reps. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, and Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.
Fudge is an advocate of the SNAP food stamp program and critic of the food box program.
Bustos has fought for agricultural research and rural infrastructure.
Pingree is an organic farmer who has introduced bills to decrease food waste and expand the role of small meat processors.
Others include California state Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, Delaware state Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse and Collin Peterson, who’s losing his seat as chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
Secretary of the Interior
The U.S. Department of the Interior manages nine bureaus that interact with agriculture, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Contenders include Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Deb Haaland, both New Mexico Democrats.
Udall has pushed for renewable energy, investments in rural communities and incentives for farmers to become more sustainable.
Haaland is an advocate for the American Indian community and vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Potential candidates include Fred Hochberg, former U.S. Export-Import Bank chairman Robert Holleyman and Rhonda Scmidtlein, a member of the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Members of Biden’s external advisory committee on trade favor free trade over national interest.
Department of Justice Antitrust Division
Biden has openly talked about stepping up antitrust enforcement efforts. Experts say this might mean crackdowns on agricultural consolidation. Potential appointees are less certain.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
In his victory speech Saturday, Biden identified climate change as a priority.
Mary Nichols, who has pushed some of the nation’s most liberal climate policies for more than a decade as chair of California Air Resources Board, is a leading contender.