There’s still no word on who will guide the U.S. Department of Agriculture, charting the course for its more than 105,000 employees and approximately $150 billion annual budget. But there have been plenty of rumors and lots of push-back on potential no First, let’s recap the USDA’s mission and get a quick overview of the department’s budget. The USDA’s mission is to “provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.” The USDA also operates numerous farm programs that benefit family farmers. Roughly 83 percent of outlays, about $126 billion, are associated with mandatory programs that provide services as required by law. These outlays include crop insurance, nutrition assistance programs, farm commodity and trade programs, and a number of conservation programs. The remaining 17 percent of outlays, estimated at about $25 billion, are associated with discretionary programs such as WIC; food safety; rural development loans and grants; research and education; soil and water conservation technical assistance; animal and plant health; management of national forests, wildland fire, and other Forest Service activities; and domestic and international marketing assistance.” (Underlined text by the author.) Read the full USDA 2017 FY Budget Summary at: http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/fy17budsum.pdf So, who is up for the job? Speculation abounds. We’ve heard mention of Chuck Conner, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under George W. Bush (and president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives). Other names in the mix include Former Governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue, Former California Lieutenant Gov. Abel Maldonado, Indiana agribusinessman Kip Tom, and Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M. While we await the big decision, we want to know what you think. Who do you want to see nominated for America’s next Secretary of Agriculture? What kinds of skills and experience should the Secretary have? Most importantly, what should the USDA’s priorities look like in 2017 and beyond? Let us know in the comments sections below! We’ll read all of your comments here and on our Facebook page, and we’ll use them to guide how we approach this nail-biter of a political appointment. Then look for another post from us drawing on your comments and concerns once the announcement is made… soon we hope! PS. Here are a few articles and news sources that are well worth a read! Delta Farm Press: One podium – Seven former secretaries of agriculture Be sure to check out Tom Philpott’s coverage at Mother Jones. The Atlantic is also following the final appointment here.