Senators Pat Roberts, D-KS, and Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, were beaming Tuesday during the first agricultural committee hearing since the Farm Bill passed.
Roberts, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutrition, was so proud he kept asking to be reminded that the Farm Bill, now in conference, passed the Senate by an 86 to 11 vote. He did not ask how long it has been since the Senate has confirmed a presidential nominee as USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety.
The correct answers for those unasked questions would have been 75 days since President Trump nominated Texas Tech University Professor Mindy Brasiers to fill that post, which has remained vacant for 1,684 days.
The good news is that after Tuesday’s joint hearing for Dan Michael Berkowitz, nominated for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and James E. Hubbard, nominated for USDA’s Under Secretary for the Resources and Environment, Brashears should be next up. Both Berkovitz and Hubbard were nominated by the president in April. Brashears’ presidential nomination came on May 10.
The keywords during the Berkovitz-Hubbard joint confirmation hearing Tuesday were “transparency” and “sustainability.” Berkovitz wanted committee members to know he was committed to transparency on a board that governs such arcaine topics as hedging and derivatives. And Hubbard wanted the committee to know he was all for sustainability of U.S. forests while acknowledging that many are burning down or being consumed by insects.
Still, both men made their cases and Roberts promised them committee and Senate votes in “the near future.” The committee isn’t allowed to take a vote on the same day as a nomination hearing.
The longtime vacancy in the post of USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety is a bipartisan affair. President Barack H. Obama left the job open for the last 1,134 days of his administration and the Trump administration, so far, gets credit for the last 550 days of the vacancy.
Tuesday’s hearing did not include any mention by any senator of the Under Secretary for Food Safety vacancy. It is often referred to as the highest food safety job in the federal government.
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