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Let’s look again at the idea of Sam Clovis as the chief scientist at USDA

Scientist in lab examining plants.
AG RESEARCH: The undersecretary for research, education and economics at USDA is required by statute to be chosen from “distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics.” It’s hard to see how Sam Clovis fills the bill.
When you put someone in charge of all the scientists and researchers at USDA, shouldn’t he have some background in science?

Usually, when a president of the U.S. nominates a Kansas native for a high-level post, I smile a little. I know these Kansas folks and they are likely to serve us well. Throw in Air Force veteran, and I’m usually on board.

In the case of the nomination of right-wing radio talk show host Sam Clovis to be undersecretary for research, education and economics at USDA, I am cringing a bit.

The position is dubbed the “lead scientist” for USDA, and the legal statute requires that "the undersecretary shall be appointed … from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics."

The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, which may look at his background and go “say what?!” but that’s unlikely. Already there has been a bit of gushing enthusiasm for bringing a total nonscientist and blatant politico into a top scientist position.

Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue endorsed the move, saying Clovis, a senior Trump campaign adviser, "has become a trusted adviser 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."

With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, we don’t need a facilitator and integrator as head scientist in charge of signing off on agricultural research. We need someone who knows what the heck they are doing and has some ability to judge what research is promising and what isn’t.

True, Clovis has been around since Day 1. Trump installed him as the White House adviser in the Department of Agriculture, a job for which he was also imminently unqualified. He does have some background in economics, having been a tenured professor at Morningside College.

He was a Trump supporter on the campaign trail, but his areas of expertise centered on economics, immigration and foreign affairs. He’s been a go-getter on tax reform and entitlement elimination. He proposes tying student loans to earning prospects after graduation, America First on foreign policy, banning all Muslim travel and re-evaluating NATO alliances, and is a big backer of Trump’s claim that there is rampant voter fraud in the U.S.

He’s also been an enthusiastic Tea Partier and believes climate change is a hoax.

I can sure see why Trump likes him. I’m not so sure why Sonny Perdue does. And I really don’t get why the American Soybean Association does.

And I sure can’t see anything in his bio that makes him a “distinguished scientist with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics."

We already have a reality TV star as president of the United States. Do we really need a talk radio host as chief scientist of the USDA?

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