Who will be Joe Biden's agriculture secretary? Influential Dems want Marcia Fudge to help 'little farmers'

Veteran leader James Clyburn is putting pressure on the president-elect to pick Marcia Fudge while names like Heidi Heitkamp and Tom Vilsack are also in fray


                            Who will be Joe Biden's agriculture secretary? Influential Dems want Marcia Fudge to help 'little farmers'
Heidi Heitkamp, Tom Vilsack and Marcia Fudge (Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden is busy picking people to fill up positions in his incoming administration. According to political observers, the man is actually doing a tightrope walk to please both the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party as he eyes to become the nation’s healer-in-chief. But yet, there could be instances where the 78-year-old might fall short of the task of finding consensus candidates.

One such scenario has developed over the pick of the secretary of agriculture. Biden is yet to choose a person to lead the agriculture department, which is being led by 74-year-old Sonny Perdue now. But opinions are flowing thick and fast over who should he name to take charge of the key department which oversees various agencies including the United States Forest Service, US Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food Stamp Program. 

James Clyburn with President-elect Joe Biden (Getty Images)

The New York Times cited South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, a heavyweight Black leader of the Democratic Party who played a key role behind Biden’s win in the primaries this year, advising that the incoming president should name Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge as the next agriculture secretary. 

Agriculture department biased, alleges Clyburn

Marcia Fudge, 68, is a Black woman who currently is in charge of the nutrition and oversight panel on the House Agriculture Committee and is backed by some of Biden’s closest advisors, the NYT report added. Clyburn told the daily that he felt the agriculture department needs to undergo big change. According to him, the department is favoring interests of big farmers at the moment over “little farmers in Clarendon County, South Carolina, or food stamp recipients in Cleveland, Ohio”. He also alleged that the department is unjustly focused on majority White states in the Midwest while neglecting the requirements of the rural South. According to another report in the New York Post that came out on Thursday, the 80-year-old Clyburn expressed his frustration to say: “'I’m sick and tired of people saying that rural America is only Nebraska and Iowa.”

“Rural America is South Carolina, it’s Mississippi, it’s Alabama. It’s Georgia. It was Black rural voters who helped Biden carry Georgia in the general election,” he said.

Names of Heidi Heitkamp, Tom Vilsack also doing rounds

But Fudge is not the only name doing the rounds. Former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp, 65, is being seen as another possible contender and so is former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, who has served in the same post for almost the entire two-term tenure of former president Barack Obama but for seven days. Clyburn, however, was not convinced with the idea of the 70-year-old Vilsack getting another term as the agriculture secretary, saying the incoming administration should not be Obama’s ‘third term’, something Biden also stressed recently. “I don't know why we've got to be recycling,” he told The Times. He also alleged that the Black farmers did not get a “fair shake” when Vilsack was doing the job. 

Clyburn’s backing of Fudge is already making an impact among the Democratic supporters. Liberal activist Edy Barkan tweeted the NYT report on Thursday to say that Biden owes his presidency to Clyburn and with the latter giving an all-out backing to Fudge, Biden would betray if he chose Heitkamp as his agriculture secretary. 



 

Biden is under pressure from both the centrist and progressive wings of the party, particularly after the election results came out. Observers have seen how the progressives have slammed the plan to pick Emmanuel Rahm for a cabinet post while praising the choice for John Kerry as the climate envoy. But the progressives themselves are under criticism from the centrists who believe that their radical ideas like defunding the police this summer hurt the party in the House elections.

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