President-elect Donald Trump has still not announced an Agriculture secretary, but the Trump transition team this week added two volunteers to the USDA “landing team” – Russell Laird, vice president for federal relations at National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., and Lance Kotschwar, chief ethics & compliance officer and vice president for government and industry affairs at The Gavilon Group, LLC, a Nebraska firm.
Late Wednesday, Politico said two sources said Trump had settled on former Georgia Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue for Agriculture secretary.
A Trump transition spokesman said Trump is still looking for the “most qualified” candidate for Agriculture secretary. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the selection process is “still fluid,” Politico reported.
Meanwhile, sources close to Trump told CNN that former California Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldanado is being considered because, as a vineyard owner, he is considered a farmer. Members of the Trump agriculture advisory committee and other lobbyists continue to express concerns about the possibility that Maldonado may get the position. One advisory committee member said his California contacts had described Maldonado as “a lightweight,” while another lobbyist noted that Maldonado “supported” HSUS [the Humane Society of the United States] in the fight over the housing for egg-laying chickens in California.
“Is there any group that brings all of agriculture together more than a dislike and mistrust of HSUS?” the lobbyist asked.
Both Laird and Kotschwar have Capitol Hill experience. Laird worked for the House Agriculture Committee and for former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas. He has also been executive director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference; president of PRT Marketing LLC, which developed the market for cotton technology; and director of external affairs for Altria/Kraft Foods.
Kotschwar was chief counsel for the House Agriculture Committee and general counsel for the Senate Agriculture committee before going to work for Gavilon in Omaha. He also was general counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
–The Hagstrom Report