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Who is Trump’s Nominee for USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics (and What Does He Do?)

Posted by Rob Mania on

On July 19, White House Occupant Donald Trump nominated a man named Sam Clovis to be the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics. What this fancy title means, to oversimplify things, is he may be the top scientist for the United States Dept. Of Agriculture.


In case you need a refresher on what the USDA does, it’s the department that guides farms and cattle ranches, and it does things like establishing rules about food safety, encouraging trade, and increasing food production and consumption.

Do you remember when Rick Perry found out that the Department of Energy also maintained the safety of nuclear weapons? Well, you, my dear reader, have permission to be surprised that about 80% of USDA's $140 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service, most of that goes to SNAP, which is still colloquially called “Food Stamps.” That’s right, this guy in charge of Food Stamps. This guy. Is going to feed the poor. (see picture) Maybe he agreed with Reagan that pickle relish is a vegetable.

Some background on Clovis: (Credit:, He holds a Ph.D. in public administration from the University of Alabama—so it is proper to call him “Dr. Clovis.” He was a teacher in Iowa, who taught economics at Morningside College, and graduate level public administration classes at Iowa State, but his real claim to fame was hosting a conservative radio show. He also was the co-chair and policy advisor for Trump during the 2016 campaign. 

While running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio he was “extremely skeptical” of global warming, despite that 97% of climate scientists agree it is real and it is man-made. Climate Change—Which I will from now on refer to as Weather Effects Related to Emissions From Uncontrolled Consumption of Carbon Dioxide—was, in his view, caused by things like “sunspot changes, Krakatoa, [and] volcanic activity.”

Now, if you’re anything like me, your first thought was, what does Godzilla’s cousin have to do with Weather Effects Related to Emissions From Uncontrolled Consumption of Carbon Dioxide? Krakatoa is not a Lovecraftian monster, but a volcanic island near Indonesia. As volcanoes go, it’s very active, and erupts every few years, sometimes with so much volume that the volcano changes its size or even created new islands. That’s a big deal, but you can’t honestly believe one volcano affects the climate of the entire world.

And I have to ask, how can a man so smart be that fucking dumb? If you interrupted 100 people watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians to ask if they thought it would rain tomorrow, and 97 of them said yes, you’d bring your umbrella. But apparently, 97% of the world’s smartest and best-educated experts can’t be the intellectual match of a radio show host from Iowa.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that his main focus will be to cut Food Stamps. I did find a quote where he said he would like to reduce costs by promoting economic growth that will put more people to work, rather than cutting programs. That sounds good at first, but it's a typical Republican fantasy; if your step one is “make everybody rich,” that's a bad step one. You can’t just make everybody rich and not have to cut anything. Also, since Republicans always cut taxes on the rich, your step two is going to be....what, exactly? Probably cut food stamps.

(as a side note, according to this chart, your best bet to lower overall spending is, “step one, give children healthy food, step two, wait twenty years until they have children, step three, don’t spend a fortune on diabetes/heart disease/obesity.)

You have to begrudgingly admire the republican party for being this brazen, and they are always this brazen. I can’t imagine President Clinton nominating Willie Nelson to be the head of the DEA.

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