Earlier this week, a new appointment for chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was announced, and it’s a 30-year veteran of Dow Agrosciences. Really?
Administration officials are touting the fact that Scott Hutchins is actually a scientist — unlike their last pick. The nomination of Sam Clovis, an openly racist radio talk-show host and Trump campaign team alum, was withdrawn last November, after it generated outrage across the political spectrum.
Any old scientist?
So yes, Hutchins is a scientist. Does that qualify him to guide USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget? Um, no.
USDA’s chief scientist drives critically important decisions. As farmers live through yet another season of devastating crop damage from herbicide drift, public research funds should be spent on helping them shift away from chemical-intensive production.
This is hardly likely under Hutchins’ leadership. The current, failing system — and the pesticide treadmill it creates — is exactly what Dow Agrosciences (now “Corteva”) has been aggressively promoting for decades. And Hutchins has been in the thick of it since 1987.
What is it about Dow...
This administration’s relationship with Dow is incredibly cozy. Hutchins is the third high-level appointment to USDA from the corporation’s pesticide/seed division.
And then there’s the controversial decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse the planned ban of Dow’s brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. The corporation's million dollar donation to inauguration festivities may or may not have had anything to do with it. But the private meeting between then-EPA director Scott Pruitt and Dow CEO Andrew Liveris just weeks before the decision? That probably did.
USDA should be serving the interests of farmers and rural communities, not pesticide/seed corporations. We’re urging the Senate — who’s tasked with confirming Hutchins’ nomination — not to hand yet another important USDA position to Dow. It’s just common sense.