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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Pressure is on the Senate to reject Trump’s nominee for chief scientist at USDA

"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."

Image Credit: Nebraska Today

Donald Trumps pick for chief scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being denounced by many groups calling on the Senate to reject the nomination of Scott Hutchins. A former private-sector entomologist who worked for Dow Chemical, Hutchins is known to have “strong ties to corporate agribusiness and pesticide companies,” EcoWatch reported.

More than 240 groups are urging 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.”

“The election last week demonstrates that people across the country are tired of this administration’s dangerous anti-science, pro-industry agenda,” Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager with Friends of the Earth, said. “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 elected Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics, Hutchins will join two other former Dow executives at the USDA, which has many now questioning the ties between the agribusiness and the Trump administration.

In a letter from the coalition, the opposition to Hutchins was described as having “spent over 30 years of his career working at Dow Agro Sciences with a focus on pesticides” and therefore there is a real question as to whether he will be able to put the “health and safety of the American public and our environment” first.

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.

“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,” Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition, said.

Hutchins’ hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee will take place on Nov. 28.

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