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Photo: aisletwentytwo/CC BY 2.0 (Flickr)

Is the USDA Relocation Just Good Old-Fashioned Rent Seeking?

, Economist

One of things I cherish about economists is their ability to call BS when they see it. In research settings economists tend to have a reputation for asking hard-hitting questions during seminars. They are known for having the most unpopular opinion and for being unabashedly proud of it. I’ve personally seen non-economists bristle at the thought of giving a talk to an economics-oriented audience. As someone who straddles the worlds of public health and economics I get it, trust me. I’ve been there. Read more >

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The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hears testimony at the confirmation hearing of Agriculture Secretary-nominee Sonny Perdue, March 23, 2017. USDA Photo by Preston Keres.

7 Questions the Senate Should Ask Trump’s New USDA Chief Scientist Nominee

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Back in early August (or roughly two Trump years ago), I wrote about the president’s nomination of Scott Hutchins to head up science at the US Department of Agriculture. In that post, I argued that Hutchins, an entomologist with a 30-year career at pesticide-maker Dow, is the wrong choice for the job.

On November 28, the Senate agriculture committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Hutchins, their chance to interview him for the position of USDA under secretary for research, education, and economics. Following are seven questions I think they should ask. Read more >

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Is Scientific Integrity Safe at the USDA?

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Science is critical to everything the US Department of Agriculture does—helping farmers produce a safe, abundant food supply, protecting our soil and water for the future, and advising all of us about good nutrition to stay healthy. I recently wrote about the Trump administration’s new USDA chief scientist nominee, Scott Hutchins, and the conflicts he would bring from a career narrowly focused on developing pesticides for Dow.

But meanwhile, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue last week abruptly announced a proposed reorganization of the USDA’s research agencies. This move has implications for whoever takes up the post of chief scientist—as do new survey findings released yesterday, which suggest that the Trump administration is already having detrimental effects on science and scientists at the USDA. Read more >

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USDA/Flickr

At the Trump USDA, the “D” Stands for “Dow”

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Everywhere you look in the Trump administration, there’s the Dow Chemical Company. Or rather, DowDuPont, as the company has been known since a 2017 corporate merger. The influence of this multinational chemical and agribusiness conglomerate is being felt in regulatory decisions involving Dow’s products, and the administration has pulled multiple Dow executives and lobbyists through the revolving door into high-level government positions.

The latest example of the latter? Meet Scott Hutchins, the career Dow exec and pesticide booster nominated last month to oversee science at the USDA.

Read more >

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Scientists to Senate: Reject Sam Clovis for USDA Science Post

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

For months, controversy has swirled around the Trump administration’s…shall we say…deeply flawed nominee for USDA chief scientist. A former business professor, talk radio host, and Trump campaign advisor, Sam Clovis has embraced unfounded conspiracy theories and espoused racist and homophobic views. And did I mention he has no scientific training whatsoever? It’s true. And while Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is standing by the nomination, thousands of the nation’s scientists are having none of it. Read more >

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