The Trump administration is planning to nominate Sam Clovis — the Department of Agriculture’s senior White House adviser — as head of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics division, according to individuals briefed on the decision. The move would mark a break with recent Republican and Democratic administrations alike, which have previously reserved the high-level position for scientists with expertise in agricultural research.
Clovis — a former economics professor and talk radio host in Iowa who served as one of the Trump campaign’s first policy advisers — has bachelor’s degrees in political science and government, a master’s in business administration and a doctoral degree in public administration, according to his LinkedIn page. In other public biographies he’s emphasized his 25-year stint in the Air Force and expertise in national security and foreign policy.
As Agriculture’s White House senior adviser, Clovis has played a key role in the department since President Trump took office. He helped run USDA during the time before Secretary Sonny Perdue took office, and he signed off on directives such as one employees received just after Inauguration Day that instructed them to clear any public communications in advance with the secretary’s office.
The job he’s now under consideration for, Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education and economics, ranks as a top-level science position that oversees the department’s extensive scientific mission. The department’s chief scientist also oversees Agriculture’s economic bureaus, including the Natural Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service. Clovis’s expertise appears most closely related to these bureaus.
An Agriculture spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Reached by phone, Clovis said, “I can’t speak to the press.”