President Trump Illegally Nominates Non-Scientist to Lead Science at the USDA

Statement by Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

Published Jul 20, 2017

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2017)—Today President Trump nominated Sam Clovis, a conservative talk radio host and former Trump campaign adviser, for the role of chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). With no background in science, Clovis—who is also a vocal climate denier—is an unacceptable and illegal choice for this important role that affects farmers, rural communities, and the health and nutrition of all Americans.

The United States Code requires that the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics—who also serves as the agency’s chief scientist—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 to direct nearly $3 billion a year in research grants and ensure that research supported by and scientific advice provided to the department is “held to the highest standards of intellectual rigor and scientific integrity.”

Below is a statement from Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS. 

“This is another example of the Trump administration sidelining science and rejecting evidence-based decision-making, once again working against the interests of American farmers, rural communities and consumers.

“The USDA plays a vital role in keeping the nation’s food safe and its water clean; improving nutrition for all of our children; and giving farmers the tools they need to improve farm productivity and profitability and manage long-term challenges including climate variability, water availability, and soil health. These complex and urgent issues all demand science-based solutions and USDA leadership with deep appreciation and understanding of the scientific process. Sam Clovis simply doesn’t have the tools required for the job.

“If President Trump wants to keep Americans safe and healthy, ensure prosperity for farmers and rural communities, and follow the law, this nomination is the wrong choice.”