The 15 federal agencies that together enforce at least 30 federal food safety laws are getting new leadership just as fast as President-elect Donald J. Trump can make his cabinet appointments from the long line of applicants showing up at Trump Tower in New York City.
And some top job holders want to stay on.
Below the cabinet level, at least one of President Obama’s agency bosses wants to keep his job in the Trump administration. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf plans to submit his resignation as presidential transition protocol demands, but he is also asking President Trump for re-appointment with support from his fellow elite cardiologists around the country.
Trump has already named Georgia congressman and orthopedic surgeon Tom Price to run Health and Human Services, which houses such important food safety units as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also financier Wilbur Ross has been nominated as Secretary of Commerce. Ross will be the new boss for whoever ends up running the National Marine Fisheries Services.
Trump still has not named anyone for the top jobs at Agricultural, Homeland Security, or the Environmental Protection Agency, all of which have food safety or water quality assignments under federal law. And the new President’s appointments do not end with the top jobs. The Director of CDC, the FDA Commissioner, and the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety are all subject to Presidential appointment.
Rep. Tom Price, with a 20 year legislative record split between the Georgia State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, with U.S. Senate confirmation will become the HHS boss over agencies that are vital to food safety including FDA and CDC.
Trump’s appointments will likely be confirmed by the Senate because of the so-called “nuclear option,” which refers to the decisions Democrats made when they were in the majority to approve Presidential appointments with a simple majority vote.
Price, named as the next Secretary of HHS by President-elect Donald J. Thump, currently chairs the House Budget Committee, where he has become a key player in the GOP plan to erase Obamacare from the law books. As Secretary of HHS, one of his jobs will be to provide food safety leadership.
POLITICOS Morning Agriculture Wednesday became the first to report that Price voted against both the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, both measures adopted by Congress in 2010 with bipartisan majorities. He also favored exempting grocery and convenience stores from menu labeling rules as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Price’s Senate confirmation will likely involve some turbulence because he plans to torch the ACA, Barack Obama’s legacy bill. How much time will remain for questioning him about his commitment to food safety enforcement remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, it’s not known if Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC’s director, wants to enlist in the Trump administration. He’s run the agency since 2009.
Apparently on the back burner for the Trump transition is the Secretary of Agriculture. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) all have greater and lesser food safety roles.
Trump has a long-line of candidates for Secretary of Agriculture. Every Republican farm state governor and every member of either the House or Senate Agriculture Committees seems available to serve.
Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, is days away from being the longest serving USDA boss in 50 years. If Trump cannot get through the crowd of USDA candidates, Vilsack will be around on the last day of the Obama administration to carry on.
And although mandated by law, the Under Secretary for Food Safety job has been left vacant for last three years of Obama administration.
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