Sonny Perdue is President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Agriculture. The former two-term governor of Georgia is from a farming family and is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. During his term as Governor he worked hard to cut waste in government and remained popular when he termed out in 2010. His former Chief of Staff, Eric Tanenblatt, in an article in the New York Times, stated “As a successful governor, Perdue has the requisite experience to direct a massive bureaucracy of the sort necessary to conduct the department’s many programs. He praised Mr. Perdue’s ability to shape agricultural policy and business. Mr. Perdue, he said, “knows the challenges facing today’s farmers.”
One criticism from environmental groups is that he has ties to large corporate agriculture and that his beliefs are not based on science. During the drought in 2007, Mr. Perdue called upon the people of Georgia to pray for rain, causing some legislators to call into question his fitness for this position. They must have forgotten another high ranking official, Thomas Jefferson, who warned about the increasing power in urban areas. In a quote from The History of the English Speaking People, Churchill shares these words from Jefferson who cautions us against moving all power from the farmer to the urban citizen. “It is the mark set on those who, not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it on casualties and caprice of customer.” And yes, it did rain.
The Secretary of Agriculture is also responsible for the care of the National Forests. The western national forests, coming out of years of drought and mismanagement, will need someone who knows how to empower people to solve problems. California’s water supply depends on leadership that will cut through years of gridlock to restore those watersheds.
Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke is picked for the Interior Secretary from a long list of potential candidates. Zinke, by some reports, was favored over more traditional public land advocates because of his work with conservation groups in Montana. He had the support of the Trump inner circle. The biggest issue seemed to be the desire by one candidate to sell off federal land in the west. One of Zinke’s first public statements was to confirm that he was not for the sale of federal lands to the states or private parties. He has yet to weigh in on the big issues facing the western forest land or the ability of the west to survive the droughts that have plagued both forests and water storage for the last decade.
Megan Molteni writes for Wired Magazine about the confirmation hearing where Senator Bernie Sanders questioned the candidate about his position on climate change, “I do not believe it’s a hoax.” But later, during questioning from Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, Zinke said that there are other factors scientists aren’t looking at closely enough—like how ocean temperatures contribute to atmospheric carbon. “There’s no model today that can predict tomorrow, so where we agree is that we need objective science to figure a model out,” Zinke said. While his position on climate change pleases some, environmental groups still feel he is too close to industry and will weaken laws like the Endangered Species Act.