The Cabinet Countdown

Nov 24, 2020

The ag world has its eyes on President-Elect Joe Biden.

Fifty-seven days ‘til his expected inauguration, the rumor mill continues to swirl over his Cabinet pick for Secretary of Agriculture.

The USDA’s top dog spot is no small job. A $120 billion budget plus overseeing 100K staff is highly coveted for passionate ag leaders looking to influence the nation’s farming, nutrition, and food policy and programs.

And while plenty of names are still in the hat, two alleged frontrunners are getting the most attention: former Senator Heidi Heitkamp and US Rep Marcia Fudge.

  • South Dakota’s Heitkamp was the early favorite. Before losing her 2018 reelection bid, her time on the Senate Ag Committee included working on two Farm Bills and advocating for rural issues. Trump even considered her for the job in 2017. Let’s just say, progressive farm and food groups are less than thrilled.

  • Fudge, from Ohio, looks to be the alt-Heitkamp pick. While hailing from a 100% urban district, her time on the House Ag Committee gives her street cred. She’s an avid defender of SNAP nutrition programs and champions conservation efforts. Plus, she’d be the first female African American to hold the job.

But what about a dark horse candidate?

It’s not completely uncommon for a surprise selection. The role has seen a wide array of governors, academics, and farmers take the reins.

So who else could it be? Names in contention include:

→ Kathleen Merrigan, Former Deputy Secretary of Ag
Karen Ross, California’s ag secretary
Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s ag secretary
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Senator & past Presidential hopeful

Where we’re headed: The clock is ticking and more eyes are watching this politically-tense appointment. Biden and his transition team should expect pushback regardless of what direction they go.