Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has been nominated by President trump to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.
Clovis, a well-known climate change doubter who does not have a science degree, according to a Washington Post report, takes over a position that it said has generally gone to someone with an advanced degree in science or medicine.
Previous undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, or food nutrition experts. The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, came to the position from Mars, Inc., where she helped manage the company’s scientific research on health, nutrition, and public safety.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made the announcement in a statement Thursday morning.
“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture,” Perdue said. “He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need.”
The Hill adds:
If confirmed by the Senate, he would serve as the USDA’s chief scientist, coordinating the department’s research and education policies and ensuring the “scientific integrity” of the research done at the department.
Clovis is a former college professor who has challenged the general scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. He has called himself a skeptic, telling Iowa Public Radio in 2014 that he is “extremely skeptical” of climate change and claimed “a lot of the science is junk science.”
“It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers,” he said.
Clovis, like so many of the Trump administration’s top policy officials, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He also said in an interview with E&E News in October that the Trump administration would not prioritize climate change or climate science at the USDA — a sharp break from the Obama administration, which made a point of trying to better prepare farmers and the food system for imminent climate-fueled changes like droughts or heavier storms.
“If the president goes forward with this nomination, it’ll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees,” said Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart.”
“Whether or not Clovis acknowledges climate change, it is happening, and agriculture has to deal with that,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, told ThinkProgress. “They have to come up with techniques to grow crops in tough weather conditions, and there are always research needs for how you grow crops in changing climate more efficiently with less resources.”