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Leading Scientists, Researchers Oppose Clovis Nomination, Citing Lack of Scientific Experience, Climate Change Denial

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Sixty-three leading scientists and researchers from around the country today urged the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition to oppose the nomination of Sam Clovis to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top scientist because he’s not a scientist.

In a letter today to the committee’s chairman, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), and ranking member, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the scientists noted that neither Clovis’s educational background nor his academic positions meet the statutory requirements for the position of Under Secretary for Research, Economics and Education.  The statute authorizing the position specifically requires that the nominee come “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

“On their face, Mr. Clovis’s credentials simply do not meet those congressionally mandated criteria,” wrote the scientists, who also noted that past under secretaries “held doctorates in fields such as comparative biochemistry, human nutrition, and biogeochemistry; they have been deans of colleges of agriculture; and they have also included a medical doctor and a plant physiologist.”

The scientists also pointed to a 2014 interview in which Clovis questioned the scientific basis of climate change, saying: “I have looked at the science and I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed.  And a lot of the science is junk science.”

“Given the importance of climate change to the future of U.S. agriculture, this comment alone should disqualify Mr. Clovis,” the scientists said.

Signatories of the letter include faculty members of private and public universities, including major land-grant institutions, whose fields range from agriculture to biology to ecology to nutrition science to plant pathology to weed science.

“Reasonably enough, the law requires that the USDA’s chief scientist actually be a scientist,” said CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie.  “The nomination of unqualified non-scientist Sam Clovis is a powerful illustration of the Trump administration’s hostility both to science and to the rule of law.”

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).