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Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary

Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Finance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday MORE (R-Iowa) suggested President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Biden shouldn't let defeating cancer take a backseat to COVID MORE should select a more moderate Midwestern Democrat as his next Agriculture secretary. 

“I realize this might hurt their chances but if Biden becomes pres he should select an Iowan or Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack's stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE or [Rep.] Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump admin to sell oil leases at Arctic wildlife refuge before Biden takes office |Trump administration approves controversial oil testing method in Gulf of Mexico | Rep. Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel Rep. David Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel MORE [D-Minn.] to be Ag Secretary. They’d be able to get things done for IA/Midwest farmers even w Democratic House & Republican Senate,” Grassley wrote on Twitter.

Both of those picks come from rural areas of the country with strong farming roots.

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Peterson, the longtime chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, just lost his reelection campaign after nearly 30 years in office. Heitkamp, a former one-term senator from North Dakota, lost reelection in 2018.

Though seemingly casting doubt on whether Biden would take office, Grassley’s comments point to tension in the ongoing transition process as progressives lobby the incoming administration to stay away from moderate Democrats.

Heitkamp, who worked on two farm bills during her time in office, has expressed interest in the job.

“Joe Biden has the opportunity to put together a Cabinet that reflects all parts of America, and I know what decision he makes is going to be the right one,” Heitkamp previously told The Hill.

“We all have to make America unified to work again, so I’m very, very excited about Joe Biden as our next president of the United States and for Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Senators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal An ally in the White House is good for abortion access, but not enough MORE as our next vice president.”

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Since leaving office, she formed the One Country Fund, a political action committee that seeks to bolster Democratic prospects in rural America.

Heitkamp could garner support among her former colleagues. But a coalition of more than 130 environmental, farm and justice groups sent a letter to the transition critiquing her for not having a stronger environmental record and for taking campaign contribution from large agribusiness.

Many of those same groups along with major unions have backed Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Record number of women to serve in Biden Cabinet MORE (D-Ohio), touting her work on food assistance programs.

For his part, Peterson was one of the Democratic Caucus's more conservative members, voting in line with Second Amendment and anti-abortion interests. 

He’s been credited for working to bridge rural and urban lawmakers to pass previous farm bills.

“You can’t just pass a [farm] bill with farm representative votes. The farm and rural areas don't have enough votes. So you have to work hard to build a coalition that brings in suburban and urban votes as well,” Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, previously told The Hill.