Secretary of Agriculture has become the only cabinet position without a nominee from Donald Trump.
At press time, literally hours before Inauguration Day, there was no signal from the incoming president about who a nominee might be. Though some believe the front-runner is former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, the administration has been silent on the status of its final major appointment.
Even if the president does choose a candidate for confirmation, the delay in naming someone to lead farm policy is a slap in the face to the millions of rural voters who helped him get elected, particularly in the crucial states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.
The slowness of this administration in naming a Secretary of Agriculture is also going to impact California and the Central Coast.
California is the nation’s leading agricultural producer and the winter’s drought relief means we are poised to make renewed gains.
The Central Coast’s bounty of citrus, avocadoes, wine grapes, berries and specialty crops is key to the leading role of U.S. farmers in international trade. Agriculture is also a major driver of the region’s tourism industry — by far our largest employer.
With globalization issues at the center of the November election as well as the lead up to the transition of power to a new administration, the role of agriculture should not be overlooked. It’s a powerful weapon for both national security and economic prosperity. Strong leadership from the government is key.
That’s why the early departure of outgoing Secretary Tom Vilsak is particularly troubling, as it has left a void that will take weeks if not months to fill.
By tradition, the Secretary of Agriculture is an advocate for free trade, for legal ways to import farm labor and for advances in food technology that make it possible for America to feed much of the world.
Best choice would be a farmer
We’d urge the administration to resist ultra-nationalist forces that might want to deny Maldonado a cabinet position because his parents were farmworkers, or because he’s been a man of moderate views on economic and farm policy.
In an administration loaded with billionaires and former Goldman Sachs investment bankers, it would be a great idea to have an actual farmer from California or Iowa or elsewhere to be the representative of agriculture in the cabinet.
America can’t be great again on manufacturing alone — it must remain the world’s leader in providing food and food products to nations across the globe.
President Trump must name a Secretary of Agriculture quickly and find someone who can easily earn confirmation. The nation, our state and our region can’t afford to have this important position remain unfilled at a crucial time.