Former Obama Ag Official Looks At Potential Biden USDA

What could the USDA look like under the Biden administration?

A one-time member of the Obama Administration recently offered some insight into what the Department of Ag may look like in 2021 and beyond. Phillip Karsting, is the former Administrator of the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service under President Obama, as well as the former Interim President of the World Food Program. He noted the President-elect said multiple times on the campaign that he was running as a Democrat but he would govern for everyone, and when it comes to the USDA Karsting noted one of Biden’s first moves is evidence of that effort.

“Appointing an incredibly level-headed, pragmatic, science and data-driven transition team. Robert Bonnie will be leading that effort. Robert and I were colleagues from 2013 to 2017. I was at FAS and he was head of the mission area, with responsibilities for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service, which was a load of employees and a lot of thorny issues to deal with. The thing that would characterize Robert is that he’s a bridge-builder.”

Karsting continued that Bonnie brings real-world Ag experience to the USDA transition team.

“He also, to his Forest Service and NRCS duties, brought to those tasks real-world experience of having managed his own farmland and forest land. I think he’s got some real cred on all those topics. Obviously, climate will be a big issue for discussion in the coming Congress, and if I were a farmer, I would want Robert Bonnie in the room when those topics come up precisely because he is a bridge-builder and not a flamethrower.”

He went on to say the USDA transition team will be working through a lot of information in the coming days.

“The transition team will be sorting through a lot of personnel and management issues in the weeks ahead, and they will also be on the receiving end of a whole lot of advice in the form of white papers from every topical corner of the nation; from food and energy to climate and production agriculture. One of the papers worth noting is one that was released is something called the ‘Climate 21 Project,’ that you all can Google. I think it’s a very worthwhile read and it was co-authored by Robert Bonnie.”

Robert Bonnie was the USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment during the Obama Administration. He’s currently a part of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.  

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