Biden nominates Bonnie for USDA undersecretary post
President Biden has nominated Robert Bonnie to be Agriculture Department undersecretary for farm production and conservation, the White House announced on April 16.
Bonnie, currently serving as USDA deputy chief of staff and senior climate adviser, served as undersecretary for natural resources and environment during the second term of the Obama administration, overseeing the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
During President Obama’s first term, Bonnie served as senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change.
“I am grateful to President Biden for announcing his intent to nominate Robert Bonnie to serve as undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation,” Vilsack said in a statement.
“He is one of the nation’s foremost authorities and leaders on working lands approaches to conservation and incentive-based climate and conservation practices for farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners,” Vilsack said.
“Under Robert’s steady hand, America’s farmers, ranchers, producers and landowners will see renewed focus on building and maintaining markets at home and abroad and preparing our food and agricultural community to lead the world in climate-smart agricultural practices.
“Robert will be committed to working with U.S. farmers and landowners to help feed Americans and the world and make climate smart practices work for them in a market-oriented way — a way that creates new streams of income, a cleaner energy future and a biobased manufacturing revolution.”
In his previous undersecretary role, Bonnie oversaw management of the 193 million-acre National Forest and Grassland System, implementation of farm bill conservation programs, and climate change.
Before coming back to USDA in the Biden administration, Bonnie was at Duke University, first as a Rubenstein fellow and later as an executive in residence at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions working on conservation and environmental issues in rural America, USDA said in the announcement.
In 2020, Bonnie also worked with the Bipartisan Policy Center on its Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Initiative.
Previously Bonnie served as vice president for land conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund, where he focused on developing incentives to reward farmers, ranchers and forest owners for stewardship activities on private lands. At EDF, Bonnie helped develop the Safe Harbor program and other incentive-based approaches to endangered species conservation.
Bonnie has master degrees in forestry and environmental management from Duke University. He grew up on a farm in Kentucky and now lives in Virginia.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said Bonnie’s experience “has given him firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers.”
“We appreciate his outreach and engagement with Farm Bureau during his tenure with the Biden administration and we are hopeful he will remain fully engaged with farmers and ranchers in his new role.
“We look forward to the nomination process and we hope to build on our relationship with Robert to ensure farm, crop and conservation programs allow farmers and ranchers to continue putting food on tables across the country.”
The American Soybean Association announced that it is pleased with Bonnie’s nomination to the Farm Production and Conservation post.
“FPAC is significant to agriculture and includes the Farm Service Agency, which manages commodity programs and the Conservation Reserve Program; the Risk Management Agency, which administers crop insurance; and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which manages conservation programs other than CRP,” ASA said in a statement.
ASA President Kevin Scott, a soybean farmer from South Dakota, said, “Bonnie has a solid background, having overseen NRCS under the Omaha administration and most recently serving as Secretary Vilsack’s chief climate adviser.”
“We have appreciated his public service in support of agriculture, and we respect Bonnie’s accessibility and responsiveness to us as farmers. Just recently, he joined ASA virtually for a conversation during our March board meetings, and we’ve consistently seen this willingness on his part to connect with farmers. We look forward to working with him in this new role after his confirmation.”
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