As Sonny Perdue settles into his role as Secretary of Agriculture, there is furious work behind the scene to fill his top management team. Several names have surfaced in media reports, and announcements are expected to come quickly. Indiana Agriculture Director Ted McKinney’s name has long been on a list of those who will be offered a position in Washington, and he may become the first Undersecretary for Trade. His international experience with Dow AgroSciences and Elanco would serve him well in this position. McKinney has kept a low profile on a possible nomination saying only, “It would have to be the right deal.” The Tipton County native comes from a strong production agriculture background, but with plenty of political capital. He was an agricultural advisor to both the Pence and Holcomb gubernatorial campaigns and served on the Trump agricultural advisory committee. McKinney has been to Washington several times in the past few months and met recently with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
The CEO of the American Soybean Association, Steve Censky, is expected to be named Deputy Secretary, the person who normally manages day-to-day operations in the department. Sources say Iowa Agriculture Commissioner Bill Northey, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, will be named the first-ever undersecretary for the newly configured mission area of Farm Production and Conservation. Northey has the support of powerful Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.
Another Iowan is also likely to get a top spot. Sam Clovis, who advised the Trump campaign on agriculture policy and is now a senior advisor to Perdue, is likely to be named Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics. Clovis is a former economics professor at Morningside College, but his possible nomination is getting some criticism environmental groups.