Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.
In the past, the undersecretary of research, education, and economics has brought years of experience in science, public health, or food policy. Previous undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, or food nutrition experts. The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, came to the position from Mars, Inc., where she helped manage the company’s scientific research on health, nutrition, and public safety.
Clovis, on the other hand, comes to the position after serving as national co-chair for the Trump campaign, which he joined in 2015. Before that, Clovis was a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He has a doctorate in public administration, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Clovis, like so many of the Trump administration’s top policy officials, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He also said in an interview with E&E News in October that the Trump administration would not prioritize climate change or climate science at the USDA — a sharp break from the Obama administration, which made a point of trying to better prepare farmers and the food system for imminent climate-fueled changes like droughts or heavier storms.
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