A corporate fox in every henhouse | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

A corporate fox in every henhouse

Kristin Schafer's picture
Business man government

As questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency continue to emerge, the president-elect and his team are plowing forward with some astonishing choices to lead our federal agencies.

From Departments of Energy and State to Housing, Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost every cabinet nominee is on the record in direct opposition to the core purpose of the agency they've been tapped to lead. These choices from Team Trump border on the absurd. They are also deeply irresponsible — and dangerous.

Case in point: Scott Pruitt

The nomination for EPA head is a clear example of this disturbing trend. As attorney general for Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt led several lawsuits against the agency's Clean Power Plan on behalf of the oil and gas industry, including submitting letters — on state letterhead — that had been penned by industry executives.

He has also actively worked to roll back EPA rules protecting clean air and water, and to undercut legal efforts of public interest groups (including PAN) to press EPA to fully implement its mission to protect public health and the environment.

Pruitt refers to climate change as a "tremendous dispute" among scientists, despite the clear consensus among the vast majority of climate researchers that our fossil fuel-based economy is driving us toward climate chaos. On his LinkedIn page, he calls himself "a leading advocate" against the agency he has now been called to serve.

Former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said this about Trump's pick:

  I don't recall ever having seen an appointment of someone that is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does."

Mr. Pruitt is clearly unfit to lead EPA, an agency which was established by President Nixon and has historically had strong bi-partisan support. The Senate must step up and block this wildly inappropriate nomination.

Billionaires in charge

A nominee for USDA has yet to be announced, and current Ag Secretary Vilsack is said to be wondering if Trump forgot that the agency exists. Given the track record of transition picks so far (Exxon's CEO to lead the State Dept? Really?), we might expect top brass from Monsanto or DuPont to be tapped to lead the agency charged with supporting farmers and rural communities.

That would neatly fit the profile of the other cabinet picks from Team Trump so far: Vigorously oppose rules geared to protect the public good? Check. Benefit from continued investment in the fossil fuel industry (and thus, deny the reality of — or oppose action on — climate change)? Check. Firmly ensconced in the 1% billionaire class? Check.

In fact, the proposed Trump cabinet boasts more billionaires than any in history — and this from a candidate who ran as an economic populist, promising to "drain the swamp" in Washington, DC. If these cabinet picks are confirmed, our government agencies — established to protect the public interest — will be firmly controlled by the corporate class, whose top interest is maximizing short term profits.

The rest of us are barely even on the radar.

No more pretense

We know corporations already have more power in Washington, DC than they should; Monsanto's influence over EPA's review of their flagship herbicide glyphosate is just the latest example. But the emerging Trump cabinet is different.

The incoming administration is looking to simply hand control of federal agencies to the corporations our government is supposed to rein in on behalf of the rest of us (and the planet). Here's 350.org leader Bill McKibben in a recent interview:

 There's a certain clarity about this moment that we haven't had before . . . Now all pretense is gone. It's entirely clear what and who is in the driver's seat."

Urge your Senators to block Pruitt's EPA nomination, and push back against the corporate takeover of our public agencies. For President Roosevelt, it was "a chicken in every pot." For Team Trump? Looks like it'll be a fox in every henhouse instead.

Kristin Schafer
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climateolgy frog's picture
climateolgy frog /
<p>climateology is a fraud. 350.org wants us to ride bicycles, forgo air conditoning and heat, and generally live in 3rd world spendor, or lack of it. having spent a significant time living on the equator in such conditions, i tell you it ain't pretty. you really ought to actually see how trump works out; he's not even sworn in yet. i'm sure he has both reason, and the right, to pick peple he trusts, and can work with.</p>
Kristin Schafer's picture
Kristin Schafer /
<p>The dramatic effects of climate change are already occurring - at a much faster rate than models have predicted. There is no longer any question among credible scientists that this climate chaos is a result of our reliance on fossil fuels. With Trump's election, we have forfeited the opportunity to be a leader in the rapidly growing alternative energy economy. Given the ties of Trump's appointees to the fossil fuel industry, there is no need to "wait and see" how things will work out - his priorities are quite clear.</p>
LollyPop's picture
LollyPop /
<p>You are already paniking about the upcoming administration, I have decided to be tolerant and give them a chance,</p> <p>Over the last past 8 years the current administration has done nothing to stop Monsanto, support true organic farmers, or stop Big AG. Look at the Dark Act, while the Senate then congress passed it, it wasn't vetoed and sent back to be rewritten for an acceptable law. Look at the laws/regulations that are being passed against the dairy farmers, the small dairy farmers that are responsible with the land and cows are going to be put out of business with the new taxes. Who is going to be able to afford healthy grass fed milk?</p> <p>I am hoping to see some things change as far as the over reach of the EPA with the upcoming administration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Kristin Schafer's picture
Kristin Schafer /
<p>Thank you for your comment. We fully agree that the Obama Administration could and should have done much more to protect the interests of small farmers and promote a more sustainable food system. But EPA is hardly "overreaching." The bits of progress they've made to protect human health or the environmental have largely been driven by pressure and legal action from public interest groups like PAN. We're not panicking about the incoming administration - just paying attention. Across the board, Trump's appointments reflect clear prioritization of corporate over public interests. This doesn't bode well for the rest of us.</p>
Kristin Schafer's picture

Kristin Schafer was PAN's Executive Director until early 2022. With training in international policy and social change strategies, Kristin was at PAN for over 25 years. Before taking on the Executive Director role in 2017, she was PAN's program and policy director. She was lead author on several PAN reports, with a particular emphasis on children's health. She continues to serve on the Policy Committee of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Follow @KristinAtPAN