Lincoln, Hickenlooper and Ross included at the surface of Clinton's ag secretary list

A former Arkansas senator, a leading local food champion along with a beermaker turned governor are the top contenders to remain the following U.S. Secretary of Agriculture should Hillary Clinton win on Nov. 8, POLITICO realizes.

There are five names presents itself an evolving list the fact that transition is mulling for agriculture secretary – one with the lower-profile Cabinet posts despite its crucial role inside food supply. This list includes Blanche Lincoln, an old Arkansas senator; Kathleen Merrigan, the first sort deputy secretary of agriculture; John Hickenlooper, the existing governor of Colorado; Karen Ross, today’s agriculture secretary of California; and Steve Beshear, hmo’s governor of Kentucky.

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Sources who have been briefed within the transition team’s deliberations cautioned that your directory of candidates most seriously under consideration remains fluid 2 1 / 2 weeks right out of the election. If Clinton wins the presidency, the dynamics for picking the nominee for agriculture secretary also are gonna change significantly in accordance with the makeup of more sought-after cabinet nominations, since Clinton has pledged that half her cabinet will be women.

For now, three of the top five contenders are women – Ross, Lincoln and Merrigan – and all of have long records in agriculture.

Many in agriculture are giving early edge to Ross, who, as the head of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, oversees the biggest farming state near you with deep experience with tough issues for agriculture, between labor to trade and water availability and quality.

“I’d have got to give Karen Ross the very best chance for setting it up,” said one agriculture policy insider after reviewing a list.

Ross is often a “deeply knowledgeable and competent administrator who realize how to complete the task on the first day,” said a food policy observer, adding that “few people will be as ready to do the job.”

To be certain, Ross checks a lot of boxes for many key interest groups, from conventional to organic agriculture and also environmental groups. Plus, many say then it’s time for your Californian, or at a minimum a non-Midwesterner to lead the department.

The before that happened was from 2001 until 2005 when Ann Veneman served as President George W. Bush’s first agriculture secretary. Veneman is from California.

Ross even offers the benefit of being close with current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a long serving person Obama’s cabinet, who also happens to be Clinton’s top adviser on agriculture issues all of which will undoubtedly certainly be a critical voice in selecting the nominee.

Before receiving her current appointment from California Gov. Jerry Brown next year, she served for 2 years as his chief of staff and was well regarded, sources say. Before serving at USDA, she led the California Association of Wine Grape Growers for more than a decade.

If that was not enough agriculture street cred, add to it that she’s originally from Western Nebraska and it is still involved in her family’s farm there.

There is a few question about whether Ross could leave her position in California to return to Washington. Inside an interview with POLITICO at the end of September, she didn’t reject the possibility, noting not wearing running shoes could be best to have “a West Coast, irrigated agriculture voice at USDA…Seeing that I’ve left an individual can sector and gone into public service, I’m very accessible to where you will need me.”

However, Ross also noted they is still equipped with two more years to provide while in the Brown administration and added she knows exactly how much work leading USDA is. She said her retired husband wants her to enjoy added time flying with him and might prefer any trips to Washington for being for pleasure, not official USDA business.

But which isn’t dissuading those found on every side of agriculture from making her their top pick to complete the job.

Lincoln is regarded another top contender for your post, especially due to the Arkansas Democrat’s long history together with the Clintons. In 1999 she had become the youngest woman ever elected on the Senate when he was 38, so she brings some female trailblazing chops.

She served as senator of Arkansas for more than a decade and made history because the first female chair with the Senate Agriculture committee before losing her seat this year to Republican John Boozman.

She also checks a box for southern farming interests.

“The Southerners are already making noise it’s mainly their turn [to lead USDA], which in some ways pushes the chances toward Blanche Lincoln,” said the ag policy insider.

But Lincoln includes lots of baggage having spent days gone by six years as the lobbyist, representing Monsanto and other organizations that happen to be often locked in contempt by organic and environmental advocates.

In the nutrition and anti-hunger community, Lincoln is often a nonstarter. Advocates are already deeply upset by Lincoln’s aggressive lobbying for a Mead Johnson, a newborn formula manufacturer that’s actively attempting to limit expanding eligibility for women Infants and Children, software that provides groceries and infant formula to poor mothers and their young children. The lobbying push is widely seen as bid to have more moms buying infant formula at full price (the federal government buys formula for WIC for much less).

After successfully dealing with Lincoln on nutrition policy inside the Senate, some health, hunger and nutrition advocates were in disbelief about Lincoln’s efforts on Capitol Hill, the way one advocate said: “Why do you think you’re playing this game to get a corporation that’s minting money pay fist?”

Despite this, Lincoln is seen as politically viable option, an individual who will not be terribly not easy to confirm since this wounderful woman has respect within the Senate. And the prospect of Lincoln in the department is even palatable to Republicans, who see her for a more centrist choice than other people listed.

“I do not believe which she would drink much of the Bernie Sanders Kool-Aid,” said one congressional GOP source.

Candidates who might ruffle the feathers of Big Ag

The third woman leading the Clinton list, sources say, is Merrigan, who also served as undersecretary at USDA during Obama’s first term. Merrigan, a longtime advocate for a more local, regional food system, is beloved by the burgeoning food movement – a loose coalition of local food, health and environmental interests – which is seen as loyal foot soldier for the party.

She also knows the Hill. As a former staffer for much left Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, she was instrumental in crafting the organic food law and advocated heavily for outreach efforts and programs for smaller than average and local farmers while at the USDA — work that some in agriculture are dismissive of given that the subtext often is that smaller than average and local is best.

As the result, Merrigan would undoubtedly face insurmountable headwinds within the core conventional agriculture groups in Washington.

“I think it would be a superb test for only just how much our food culture has created,” said the foodstuff policy observer. “Her resume aligns with from the people that consume food but not most with the folks that grow food.”

Hickenlooper, Colorado’s Democratic governor – experience Vilsack has stated he’d enjoy visiting as part of his successor – emerged as one of the more surprising alternatives on this list, mostly while he doesn’t have a real knowledge of agriculture and clashes with Clinton on trade.

A geologist and beer brewer by trade, Hickenlooper didn’t enter politics until 2003 as he became mayor of Denver. He was elected as Colorado’s 42nd governor this season, bucking a red wave that saw Democrats lose control of both chambers in Congress.

“That one puzzles me, because I do not see what he brings,” the agriculture policy insider said of a possible Hickenlooper nomination. “He wasn’t mayor of Durango or Yuma or a more ag-centric invest Colorado. He was mayor of Denver, that’s increasingly more taken away from ag everyday.”

More recently Hickenlooper is taking some strong stances, particularly about the TPP, that she supports – a contrast to Clinton’s latest position for the trade deal.

“Getting the Trans Pacific Partnership done is going to open some serious big markets for all our products, especially our beef and our pork,” Hickenlooper told attendees at an agriculture summit in 2015. “When you can new markets, significant untouched markets, you may get a better price. After all, there’s just no two ways about it.”

Even so, those accustomed to Hickenlooper’s leadership style say he could be a tool to Clinton’s cabinet. Very similar to Vilsack, they have a penchant for getting in touch with all sides of a worry and quickly building consensus. A known conciliator, the Colorado Independent called Hickenlooper “an amiable, pro-business technocrat governor associated with a purple swing state who’s neither a polarizing partisan warrior nor a buck-stops-here types of leader.”

He’s also credited with leading enhancing the Colorado Water Plan, a blueprint based on how the state will handle growing strain on the river system which has an increased population and competing agriculture interests.

“He listens well. He picks good people,” said Ben Rainbolt, executive director of your Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “He hears them plus the issues after which takes its decision.”

He’s also experienced a cozy relationship with Clinton and was briefly considered to be with her running mate. The 2 main met for a couple hours in July at Whitehaven, Clinton’s home in Washington, D.C., a few weeks after Hickenlooper’s top policy aide joined the Clinton campaign.

But Hickenlooper would also likely alienate environmentalists within the left, who see him as too taking oil companies for the tariff of environmental protection. He’s warmly greeted the jobs associated with the gas and oil prices boom, plus 2014 helped keep anti-fracking measures off of the ballot.

"The conservation community likes his beer more than they appreciate his possibilities of being agriculture secretary,” quipped one source accustomed to their thinking.

Beshear is another potential Clinton pick that may seem to come somewhat from left field. As he was governor in the Bluegrass State from 2007 to 2015, Beshear played a tiny role in Kentucky’s farming industry.

“He really did not have any desire for agriculture whilst was governor,” said the agriculture policy insider, adding that some in Kentucky farming circles were surprised Beshear made the list.

Beshear stood alongside a feat by James Comer, Kentucky’s former agriculture commissioner, to legalize the cultivation of hemp in an effort to create jobs and spur economic rise in rural areas. Beshear ultimately allowed an invoice in becoming law without his signature in 2013.

Beshear, who played a prominent role in Kentucky politics way back to 1973 as he served within the state House of Representatives, did focus on expanding agricultural exports in his tenure as governor and launched an initiative last year geared towards strengthening ties to international partners, taking trade missions to countries like Canada and Taiwan.

But he’s a stronger record on heath care treatment, overseeing the most successful state implementations on the Affordable Care Act, and features been floated as a potential Clinton decision for secretary from the HHS.

Other names getting attention

There are other names that Washington is buzzing about, though rapid ejaculation unknown if they’re actively in mind through the transition team. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is likewise believed to be a contender. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine will also be names which have surface.

But it is suggested that conventional agriculture groups will not offer the array of Pingree or Tester with regard to their outspoken support for organic foods and production. Both lawmakers their very own organic farms and several support from sustainable agriculture groups.

Shumlin faces a comparable problem. They have by far the most organic farms and farmers markets per capita than in other regions in the nation, and Shumlin signed the state’s controversial, and short lived, GMO labeling law. In other words, hawaii represents a lot of things that aren’t palatable for Republicans, the insider said.

“If I’m [Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman] Pat Roberts or [Sen.] Chuck Grassley, you can name 14 of them, they should eat him alive,” the insider added.

Other names being speculated about include former Colorado congressman John Salazar and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

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