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.