Three previously nominated U.S. Department of Agriculture officials now have been nominated for senior leadership positions at USDA after the Senate failed to confirm them during the last session of Congress. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue named Dr. Mindy Brashears as deputy undersecretary for food safety, Naomi Earp as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights and Dr. Scott Hutchins as deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics (REE). These positions do not require Senate confirmation.
The three previously had been nominated by President Donald Trump for Senate-confirmed positions at USDA. While the Senate Agriculture Committee, on a bipartisan basis, favorably reported all three nominees, their nominations expired without receiving confirmation votes by the end of the 115th Congress in early January. The President has resubmitted their nominations to the Senate in the 116th Congress.
“At USDA, we’ve been engaged in fulfilling our mission without all of our players on the field, so we want to get these strong, qualified leaders in the game,” Perdue said. “I want to thank these three for their patience, as their professional lives have been placed on hold for months during their nomination process. Now, they will get to work right away on behalf of the American people. Nevertheless, I urge the Senate to act on their new nominations as quickly as possible so we can have them in the positions for which they were intended in the first place.”
The three have been re-nominated for more senior roles than the ones Perdue selected them to fill in their respective mission areas at USDA. While in their newly selected deputy roles, they will not be serving in “acting” capacities for the positions for which they have been nominated. As a result, they will not be able to exercise the functions or powers expressly delegated to the Senate-confirmed positions. As deputy undersecretary for REE, Hutchins will oversee the Office of the Chief Scientist, with Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young continuing to serve as acting chief scientist.
Brashears, Earp and Hutchins will begin working at USDA on Jan. 29, 2019.
Brashears is a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. Brashears’ research program focuses on improving food safety standards to make an impact on public health. Her acclaimed work evaluates interventions in pre- and post-harvest environments and on the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance in animal feeding systems. These efforts have resulted in commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce Escherichia coli and salmonella in cattle. She also leads international research teams to Mexico, Central and South America to improve food safety and security and to set up sustainable agriculture systems in impoverished areas. She is past-chair of the National Alliance for Food Safety & Security and of the USDA multi-state research group.
Earp is a retired career civil servant with more than 20 years of experience in federal equal opportunity policy, charge processing, complaint handling and employment law. She entered federal services as a GS-9 career employee and worked her way to the senior executive service level prior to appointments as chair and vice chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush. Throughout her career, Earp has been a strong advocate for labor/management partnership and cooperative business models to raise awareness and address both disparate treatment complaints and allegations of systemic discrimination. Her federal equal opportunity, civil rights compliance and public policy career includes positions with the U.S. Department of Commerce, USDA and the National Institutes of Health. Born and raised in Newport News, Va., Earp received a degree in social work from Norfolk State University, a master's from Indiana University and a Juris doctorate from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.
Hutchins formerly served as global leader of integrated field sciences for Corteva Agriscience and as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska. Previously, he served as president of the Entomological Society of America. Hutchins earned his degree in entomology from Auburn University, a master's from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. from Iowa State University.