Thursday, October 05, 2017

Senate confirms top deputies to Perdue at USDA

The Senate confirmed two high-ranking Department of Agriculture officials Oct. 3, including one who will be filling a newly created office, Don Davis reports for The Duluth News Tribune.

Stephen Censky
Stephen Censky will be the deputy secretary responsible for running USDA day-to-day, along with helping Secretary Sonny Perdue create farm policy. He grew up on a soybean, corn and livestock farm near Pipestone, Minn., got his bachelor of science in agriculture from South Dakota State University, and received a postgrad degree in agricultural science from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has been the CEO of the American Soybean Association for the past 21 years and has served in the USDA under presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"Censky played a major role in last year’s passage of the first federal law to mandate labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs — a controversial and wide-ranging initiative that affects soybean farmers, grocery stores and food companies from Kraft to General Mills," Maya Rao reports for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. "The federal law invalidated a GMO labeling law in Vermont that agricultural and food interests opposed over concerns that different standards in just one state would lead to higher costs for national companies."

In his testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee at his confirmation hearing, Censky said there were three specific goals he wants to work on during his tenure:
  1. Diversification of markets: This includes expanding foreign trade and promoting local and regional food markets for farmers and consumers alike. In addition, diversification of crops through research, Extension and crop insurance coverage.
  2. Preparation for and adaption to changing weather and climate: Our agricultural production systems and forests truly are on the front line of impact by changes in weather and climate. I believe USDA has an inherent responsibility to help our farmers, ranchers and forests become more resilient. USDA’s research, conservation, forestry, extension, crop insurance and other programs all have major roles to play.
  3. Expansion of broadband to rural America. Broadband technology can be transformative for agricultural producers and rural communities. From precision agriculture that allows producers to farm more sustainably to promoting rural development and jobs, America’s rural areas truly need broadband technology. USDA has a unique role to play within the administration and through its own programs.
Ted McKinney
Ted McKinney will be the undersecretary of trade and foreign agricultural affairs--a newly created office. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Tipton, Indiana, and received a bachelor's in agricultural economics from Purdue University. He worked for 19 years at Dow AgroSciences and for 14 years was the director of global corporate affairs for Elanco, an agricultural chemicals division of Eli Lilly. In 2014 then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appointed him to lead the state Department of Agriculture, Maureen Groppe reports for The Indianapolis Star. He co-founded and was the interim director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, an agriculture biotech promotion group funded by BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.

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