After months of slow movement in the appointment of the leaders needed to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture, progress was finally made the third week of July, six months into the term of President Donald Trump.
Trump’s appointee for secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was confirmed in late April, but until mid-July served without the deputy and assistant secretaries who normally fill out the leadership of the department.
On July 14, Trump nominated Stephen Censky, who had served as CEO of the American Soybean Association since 1996, to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture. Censky has to be confirmed by the Senate, but immediately won the endorsement of Perdue.
“Our work has only just begun in delivering results for the people of American agriculture, and the experience and leadership skills of Stephen Censky will only enhance our efforts,” Perdue said. “He will bring enthusiasm and a dedication to this country, which will be great assets to USDA’s customers. I am extremely pleased with the nomination for this key position and am hopeful that the Senate will take it up in short order.”
Trump also confirmed his intent to nominate Ted McKinney for undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, a new position created in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Trump also said he will ask Sam Clovis to serve as undersecretary for research, education and economics. That appointment also requires Senate approval.
Perdue offered his strong support for both nominees. “For our new undersecretary position emphasizing international trade, I have always said that I want someone who wakes up every morning asking how we can sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets. Ted McKinney is that person. His longstanding background in agriculture, economic development and global issues will make him an unapologetic advocate for U.S. products in the world marketplace,” Perdue said.
“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted adviser and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture. He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need. Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve.”
Perdue made three appointments of his own in mid-July to help fill out his leadership team.
He named Brandon Lippos to serve as the administrator of the Food and Nutrition Services and also as acting deputy undersecretary of FNCS until the Senate confirms a permanent presidentially nominated appointee.
In addition, Maggie Lyons will serve as chief of staff and senior adviser to the undersecretary, while Kailee Tkacz will serve as policy adviser. Following the staffing announcements, Perdue issued this statement:
“The health and nutrition programs administered by USDA play a tremendous role in the administration’s efforts to improve education and job readiness. I have no doubt that Brandon, Maggie and Kailee will help further our mission of feeding the world and making decisions in our nutrition programs that are science-based and data-driven. I welcome Brandon, Maggie and Kailee to the USDA family, and I thank them for their desire to serve this nation.”