Four ag nominees left in limbo |

Four ag nominees left in limbo

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a package of 77 of President Donald Trump’s nominees for executive branch positions, but it did not include any of the three Senate Agriculture Committee-approved candidates for undersecretary positions at USDA or Kip Tom, the Indiana farmer approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations food and agriculture agencies in Rome.

Under Senate rules, the unapproved nominations now go back to the White House and Trump must decide whether to resubmit them. If they are resubmitted, the nominees must go through the committee process again, according to the Senate Periodical Press Gallery.

Of the three pending USDA nominations, Mindy Brashears to be agriculture undersecretary for food safety was the least controversial, although her work for industry has been discussed in consumer advocacy circles.

She is a professor of food safety and food microbiology and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Naomi Earp, the nominee for assistant secretary for civil rights, generated some controversy at her confirmation hearing when she said there is a difference between sexual assault, which is a crime, and “the silliness that goes on as a part of harassment.”

Later in the hearing, Earp added, “I probably shouldn’t have described sexual harassment as ‘silliness,’ although it is on a continuum.”

Scott Hutchins, the nominee for undersecretary for research, education and economics, was questioned at the hearing about his employment until recently at Corteva Agriscience.

But the main issue with Hutchins’ nomination may be Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s plans to move the Economic Research Service under the chief economist who reports to the secretary and to move most of the employees of ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of the Washington metropolitan area. The REE undersecretary oversees ERS and NIFA.

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