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What 3,100 scientists have against Sam ClovisWhat 3,100 scientists have against Sam Clovis

Letter to Congress requests rejection of the would-be USDA chief scientist.

Ben Potter

October 31, 2017

2 Min Read
In this photo from 2014, Sam Clovis, far right, joins Joni Ernst, center, and other Republican candidates, from left, Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds during a campaign stop at the Amtrak Osceola Train Depot in Osceola, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla/GettyImages

President Trump’s nomination for USDA chief scientist, former economics professor and talk show host Sam Clovis, has received plenty of criticism over the fact that he has little relevant experience for the post. This week, more than 3,100 concerned scientists doubled down on that criticism with a heated letter to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan. 

“The nomination of Clovis for USDA chief scientist reflects a lowering of the high standards that America’s farmers, ranchers, consumers, researchers and universities expect from a leader of scientific inquiry and public investment in science,” the letter states.                                                                                                           

The letter notes that codification from the 2008 farm bill stipulates that the nominee must be a “distinguished scientist with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics.”

The letter then charges that Clovis falls short of standards demanded of the position.

“His professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience that would otherwise equip him to fulfill his duties,” the letter states. “An individual without grounding in the scientific process is ill-suited to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.”

Read the letter in its entirety here

Clovis is not absent of supporters, however. According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “[Clovis] was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture. He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need.”

Clovis’ Senate confirmation hearing is set for Nov. 9. However, there is ample speculation that could change, as he has been implicated in court documents as a “campaign supervisor” for George Papadopoulos, the former Trump aide who has pled guilty for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos to set up an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials in August 2016, according to court documents.

About the Author(s)

Ben Potter

Senior editor, Farm Futures

Senior Editor Ben Potter brings more than 14 years of professional agricultural communications and journalism experience to Farm Futures. He began working in the industry in the highly specific world of southern row crop production. Since that time, he has expanded his knowledge to cover a broad range of topics relevant to agriculture, including agronomy, machinery, technology, business, marketing, politics and weather. He has won several writing awards from the American Agricultural Editors Association, most recently on two features about drones and farmers who operate distilleries as a side business. Ben is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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