Today, a coalition of more than 160 environmental, food justice, sustainable agriculture, workers’ rights, animal welfare, social justice, public health, and anti-hunger organizations sent a letter today to President-Elect Biden, Vice President-Elect Harris, and their transition team opposing Heidi Heitkamp as a potential nominee for USDA Secretary.
Heitkamp, the former U.S. Senator from North Dakota (2013-2018), has been campaigning for the top post at USDA and is considered among the frontrunners for the position.
In the letter, the groups argue that “Heitkamp is the wrong choice for the USDA because she has aligned herself with corporate agribusiness at the expense of family farmers, supports fossil fuel interests, and holds views that are out of step with the Democratic Party and the majority of Americans.”
The letter also points out that there are “many other highly qualified candidates ––including several women candidates and candidates of color.” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), a longtime member of the House Agriculture Committee and chair of the nutrition subcommittee, has also indicated her interest in the position. She would be the first African American woman to become USDA Secretary.
“With her terrible environmental record and deep ties to agribusiness and the fossil fuel industry, Heitkamp is the wrong person to lead the USDA,” says Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and agriculture at Friends of the Earth. “We need to steer today’s agriculture away from energy-intensive industrial monoculture and factory farming toward diversified regenerative farming. If President-elect Biden is serious about meeting his climate goals, he cannot name Heitkamp as USDA Secretary.”
“Heitkamp’s track record speaks for itself: she cares more about corporations than communities,” added Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the HEAL Food Alliance, a coalition of organizations representing over two million rural and urban farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food chain workers, indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates and community organizers across the United States. “Farmers and families across the U.S. deserve leaders who will prioritize their needs over those of corporations. We strongly urge the Biden-Harris administration to name a USDA Secretary who understands the urgency of the moment and will think and act with that in mind – with care for independent farmers, the food system’s essential workers, and families all over that are struggling to make ends meet.”
Joe Maxwell, President of Farm Action Fund explained, “Facing excessive monopoly control of their markets and climate change, our farmers and ranchers need a USDA leader who has the experience and the vision to build a new resilient food system that works for farmers, workers, and local and regional businesses throughout the food system. During her tenure in the U.S. Senate, Heidi Heitkamp has proven she is not that leader; she is part of the problem, not the solution.”
“People’s Action had 10,000 conversations with rural voters, and when asked what they saw as the cause of declining conditions in their community, the number one answer was a government that repeatedly chose the needs of big corporations over everyday people,” People’s Action Director George Goehl said. “Senator Heitkamp, is in the pocket of corporate ag, fossil. fuels and the health insurance industry, and appointing her would confirm people’s fears that Democrats are controlled by the same corporate puppet strings as Republicans. If Democrats want to start winning a larger share of the rural vote, they have to cut the puppet strings and stand with everyday people.”
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