Stop President Trump’s Illegal and Offensive Nomination for USDA Chief Scientist

President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a former talk radio host and climate denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis does not have the required scientific background or any experience in food or agriculture.  He denies the science of climate change. And he has espoused racist and homophobic views and embraced wild conspiracy theories.

In short, Clovis is an unacceptable choice for this important role that involves evidence-based decision-making and affects farmers, rural communities, and the health and nutrition of all Americans.

Sam Clovis
Photo: Alex Hanson/CC BY 2.0 (Flickr)

The chief scientist is tasked with advancing scientific integrity at the USDA, oversees the USDA's investment in agricultural research, and is responsible for disbursing nearly $3 billion annually through dozens of programs and entities. These programs—such as the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative—make critical investments in scientists and universities for research on topics from childhood obesity and food safety to the long-term sustainability of the nation’s farms.

US law requires that this position be filled by a scientist. Sam Clovis lacks the experience and training required to oversee the USDA’s important science work. Moreover, his embrace of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and documented statements about race and LGBTQ issues are unscientific and deeply troubling. It is crucial that we act now to stop the Senate from confirming him.

What you can do

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The case against Clovis: talking points

  • President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a talk radio host and climate denier with no training in science and a history of peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories—for the role of under secretary for research, education, and economics at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The under secretary also serves as the USDA's chief scientist.
  • Congress mandated in 2008 that the under secretary be chosen from among “distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” Clovis has no such training or experience, and is therefore legally and scientifically unqualified for the job.
  • The chief scientist—an important role tasked with advancing scientific integrity at the USDA—also oversees the USDA's nearly $3 billion annual investment in agricultural research and is responsible for disbursing grants to scientists working to solve food and agriculture challenges at universities and other institutions.
  • Agricultural research enables farmers to better withstand floods and droughts, protect their soil, increase crop productivity, decrease their carbon footprint, and prevent fertilizer runoff that can lead to polluted streams and lakes and tainted drinking water. With no training in science, and with a record of climate change denial, Sam Clovis is not equipped to coordinate USDA’s research portfolio or direct the agency’s resources to give farmers the tools they need to respond to a changing climate and remain profitable for the long-term.
  • Make it local: if you know about the challenges farmers face where you live, talk about it! Here in [state/region], we’ve faced [local impacts, e.g. rampant water pollution, loss of cropland to drought]. Our farmers and rural communities desperately need research on [X, Y, Z], and we need support from USDA. As a non-scientist and a science skeptic, Sam Clovis is unfit for the task.
  • For more, read The Case Against Clovis: Why Trump’s USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Is the Wrong Choice and Is Sam Clovis a Scientist? A Racist? 9 Questions the Senate Should Ask

Call-in script

Hi, my name _______________ and I’m constituent from [City, State].

I’m calling to express my strong opposition to the nomination of Sam Clovis for chief scientist at USDA. He is not a scientist, is a climate denier, and has no experience or training in food or agriculture. He does not meet the legal requirements of the position, and his past statements on race and LGBTQ issues are ignorant and offensive. 

So I ask [Senator X] to oppose this nomination.

Thank you.

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