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200+ Groups Call on Senate to Reject 'Pesticide Industry Loyalist' as USDA's Top Scientist

Politics
Agricultural workers in Salinas, California. Michael Davidson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Andrea Germanos

Denouncing his "strong ties to corporate agribusiness and pesticide companies," more than 240 groups urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject the nomination of Scott Hutchins, President Donald Trump's pick for chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


"The election last week demonstrates that people across the country are tired of this administration's dangerous anti-science, pro-industry agenda," declared Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager with Friends of the Earth. "We urge the Senate to listen to the American people and reject this pesticide industry loyalist who will put corporate profits over farmers, public health, and our environment."

If appointed Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics—a position with "broad implications for the future of American agricultural science and policy-making"—Hutchins would be the third Dow executive at the USDA, making the cozy relationship between the Trump administration and the agribusiness giant even more clear.

In a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the massive coalition opposed to Hutchins warns that by appointing someone that "spent over 30 years of his career working at Dow Agro Sciences with a focus on pesticides," the Trump administration has once more demonstrated its willingness to put its "unhealthy relationship" with Dow Chemical ahead of the "health and safety of the American public and our environment."

The letter from the coalition—which includes ActionAid USA, Family Farm Defenders and Interfaith Worker Justice—states:

Scott Hutchins has a history of defending the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. In 2001, Hutchins expressed disappointment that Dow needed to limit uses of the pesticide, complaining that the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) put Dow's organophosphates under scrutiny.

Hutchins encourages growers to use pesticides, even when less toxic alternatives are available. In a 2006 presentation, Hutchins claimed, "Integrative Pest Management does/should NOT advocate avoidance of technology." While many practitioners of Integrative Pest Management view the practice as a way to significantly reduce synthetic pesticide use and utilize them as a "last resort," Hutchins has co-opted the term to encourage pesticide application.

"Should Scott Hutchins gain control of USDA's research programs," the letter continues, "he could use the agency's infrastructure and grant making to advance his harmful vision of chemical intensive agriculture under the guise of ecologically sustainable practices."

According to Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition, one of the signatory groups, "In nominating Scott Hutchins to the position of Chief Scientist at USDA, the Trump Administration has, again, proven that they are more interested in promoting the agenda and profit of industrial agribusiness over scientific integrity, the protection of public health, and the well-being of farmers, farm workers, and rural communities."

The Senate Agriculture Committee announced Tuesday that Hutchins' hearing would be held Nov. 28.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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