Energy & Environment

Major unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary

Greg Nash

Three major unions, including the largest union for meatpacking workers, are pushing the incoming Biden administration to select Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as the next Agriculture secretary.

The letter from United Food and Commercial Workers calls Fudge “a fierce advocate for those who find themselves in hard times,” and says that she “seeks ways to ensure that federal programs successfully address the needs of the public.”

Fudge would be the first Black woman to hold the Agriculture secretary role, and she’s been openly campaigning for the job, telling Politico earlier this month that she’s been “very, very loyal to the ticket” and encouraging the Biden administration to place Black leaders in roles beyond traditional posts like Housing and Urban Development secretary.

Fudge, one of the highest-ranking Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, comes from a more urban district but has made a name for herself through her work advocating for food stamps and other food security programs. That includes fighting efforts from the Trump administration to limit food stamps and school lunch programs.

The letter, which was also signed by the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, notes that work, arguing Fudge is best suited to address a county facing economic, public health and climate crises. They also write Fudge could help rectify “the discriminatory application of [U.S. Department of Agriculture] programs” during a national reckoning on race.

The union nod could be a boost for Fudge, who is competing for the job alongside former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).

Heitkamp, who formed a political action committee that seeks to bolster Democratic prospects in rural America, served on the Senate Agriculture Committee and comes from a state with a major agricultural economy.

But more than 130 left-leaning groups, including Friends of the Earth and Farmworker Justice, sent a letter to the Biden transition team urging them to avoid selecting Heitkamp due to her acceptance of donations from fossil fuel companies and her support for President Trump’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the only other Democrat to support Scott Pruitt when he was nominated.

“Heitkamp’s history of receiving generous corporate donations coupled with her voting record is a strong indication that she would prioritize the interests of corporate agribusiness giants over the needs of family farmers,” the groups wrote, saying she should not be responsible for “leading an agency that is crucial to President-elect Biden’s bold plan to fight climate change.”

“We urge the administration to select one of the many other highly qualified candidates — including several women candidates and candidates of color — without ties to agribusiness and fossil fuels,” they added.

Tags Donald Trump Food Stamps Heidi Heitkamp Joe Manchin Marcia Fudge Scott Pruitt U.S. Department of Agriculture

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