The Biden-Harris agency review team for USDA (see below) is actively gathering policy ideas for the new administration to consider. This is a window for organizations – including SAFSF, our members and our members’ grantee partners – to put policy priorities on the table and raise their voices in the conversations that will shape how the new administration’s agriculture, food system, and climate policies will play out on the ground. This is administrative policy advocacy, not lobbying. Foundations are free to engage in non-lobbying administrative policy advocacy.
Secretary of Agriculture
December 9 – While it appeared for many weeks that the two main contenders for Secretary of Agriculture were Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D – OH 11th) and former Senator from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, news organizations are reporting today that President-Elect Biden will appoint Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa who led USDA during the Obama Administration, to the post once again.
Other USDA Posts
There are many other critical and important political appointments within USDA beyond the Secretary, such as under secretaries for the different agencies within USDA.
You can find a full listing of over 7,000 positions available throughout the federal government for noncompetitive (political) appointment in the government’s Plum Book. See USDA-specific listings here. A new version is normally released soon after each election, but the 2020 version is not yet available.
There is also a Join Us page on the transition website where anyone can apply for the thousands of additional political slots that will be filled across hundreds of offices at USDA and other agencies.
This Partnership for Public Service maintains a Political Appointee Tracker for more than 750 political appointments.
Three of the four previous congressional Agriculture Committee leaders will be replaced as a result of Rep. Peterson (D-MN 7th) losing re-election, and Rep. Conaway (R-TX 11th) and Sen. Roberts (R-KS) retiring.
Rep. David Scott (D-GA 11th) has been chosen as Chairman on the House side, and is the first Black lawmaker to hold this position. On the Senate side, if the Republicans hold the chamber following the Georgia run-off elections in January, Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) is expected to be the next Chairman. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Biden-Harris Transition Priorities
The incoming administration has identified the following four top priority issues. There are opportunities within each of these priorities to advocate for policy ideas that support a just, equitable and sustainable food and agriculture system.
- COVID-19 – a comprehensive approach to the pandemic, including a renewal fund to assist state and local governments prevent budget shortfalls.
- Economic Recovery – assistance for state and local governments, families, main street businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Racial Equity – addressing the longstanding societal inequities, including those in agriculture.
- Climate Change – creating jobs in climate-smart agriculture, resilience and conservation.
Policy Priority Statements from the Field
- American Farmland Trust – Transition Recommendations for USDA
- Center for Food Safety – Actions for the Biden Administration
- Climate 21 Project – Transition Memo for U.S. Department of Agriculture
- National Organic Coalition – Transition Recommendations
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – Presidential Transition Briefing Papers: Food and Agriculture Priorities for Administrative Action
- National Young Farmers Coalition – Biden Transition Memo
USDA Review Team
The United States Department of Agriculture team will also review the Farm Credit Administration and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.
|Name||Most Recent Employment||Source of Funding|
|Robert Bonnie, Team Lead||Duke University, Bipartisan Policy Center||Volunteer|
|Nicholas Anthis||University of California||Volunteer|
|Sanah Baig||The Good Food Institute||Volunteer|
|Brooke Barron||Office of the Speaker, Maine State Legislature||Volunteer|
|Jonathan Coppess||The University of Illinois||Volunteer|
|Andrea Delgado||UFW Foundation||Volunteer|
|Debra Eschmeyer||Arizona State University||Volunteer|
|Meryl Harrell||Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards||Volunteer|
|LaQuita Honeysucker||The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union||Volunteer|
|Will McIntee||Biden for President||Transition — PT Fund, Inc.|
|Bianca Oden||National Resources Defense Council, Inc.||Volunteer|
|John Padalino||Bandera Electric Cooperative, Inc.||Volunteer|
|Gregory Parham||United States Department of Agriculture (Retired)||Volunteer|
|Lisa Pino||State of New York, Department of Health||Volunteer|
|Amy Pitelka||Barker Pitelka PLLC||Volunteer|
|Jeffrey Prieto||Los Angeles Community College District||Volunteer|
|Mike Schmidt||US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry||Volunteer|
|Corey Then||Moneta Group||Volunteer|
To add your organization’s priority statement to this list, please email Traci Bruckner, [email protected].