Organic Consumers Association

Tell the Senate: Don’t Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA!

Street sign that reads WRONG WAY on a sunny dayHere’s what we know so far about President-Elect Donald Trump’s picks for leadership posts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Based on their track records, they all will likely let companies like Monsanto dictate food, agriculture and environmental policy.

The only thing standing between Monsanto and near-total control of the USDA and EPA? The U.S. Senate, whose job it is to approve about 1,100 presidential nominees before Trump’s cast of characters can step into their new posts.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators, Don’t Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA! Let your Senators know that you expect them to block any USDA or EPA nominee who would take direction from companies that produce pesticides, genetically modified organisms or factory-farmed ‘food.’


In 2008, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) launched the “Stop Vilsack” campaign to oppose then-President-Elect Barack Obama’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. We (rightly) predicted that Vilsack’s loyalties would lie with his cronies in the biotech industry.

If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, we would be working to keep Clinton’s assumed pick for agriculture secretary—Monsanto lobbyist Blanche Lincoln—from being approved.

But Trump won. So our job now is to try to keep as many of Monsanto’s minions as possible from winning positions in the USDA, EPA and U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

A look at who’s advising Trump so far on ag and environmental policy doesn’t bode well humans and our planet:

Agriculture Advisory Committee: The list of folks giving Trump and his transition team “guidance” on ag policy is full of Monsanto- and factory farm-loving politicians. The list includes Charles Herbster, a Nebraska cattle-breeding company owner, and owner of a company that sells chemicals and fertilizers. Herbster is also a member and major funder of the Ag America steering committee, whose members also include Monsanto and DuPont.

EPA transition leader: Myron Ebell is director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprises Institute, a corporate front group whose sponsors include Monsanto. Ebell is a professed climate denier and a corporate shill who claims pesticides are harmless.

USDA transition leader: Vice President-Elect Mike Pence is a career politician with strong ties to Eli Lilly, the maker of controversial animal drugs used to fatten up animals in factory farms. Eli Lilly has consistently been a top donor to Pence’s political campaigns. The drug maker owns rBGH, the recombinant bovine growth hormone developed by Monsanto, as well as the growth-promoter ractopamine, which is banned in more than 100 countries.

Who is the Trump transition team considering for the plum posts of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and EPA Administrator? A line-up of Monsanto- and Big Ag-friendly suspects. There isn't a single proponent of organic or regenerative agriculture among them.

For Secretary of Agriculture:

Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, co-chaired the so-called Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, the front-group Monsanto created to pass the DARK Act. As USDA Secretary, he would push for aggressive implementation of the worst aspects of the DARK Act, including a provision directing the USDA Secretary to “establish consistency” between the DARK Act and organic regulations. This would open the floodgates for GMOs to be allowed in organics.

Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture under Gov. Pence for three years, his first job in government. Before that McKinney worked for Eli Lilly, Dow AgroSciences and a number of industry front groups, including the Council for Biotechnology Information, the International Food Information Council, the Meat Export Federation and the International Federation of Animal Health.

Don Villwock, a genetically modified crop farmer who has been active in the leadership of both the non-profit advocacy and for-profit banking and insurance businesses of the multi-billion-dollar Farm Bureau empire. With the Farm Bureau, Villwock advocated for and profited from crop insurance. As of 2014, Villwock and his wife had received more than $1.4 million in farm subsidies from the federal government.

Charles Herbster, Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee chair. Herbster is a Nebraska cattleman who also distributes pesticide ingredients and fertilizers, among other things. He’s a major funder and steering committee member of the Ag America Super PAC. Other donors to Ag America include Monsanto, Dupont, BASF, Dow, Syngenta, and Bayer.

Sonny Perdue is the former Governor of Georgia. He supports factory farms, pesticides and genetically engineered crops. In 2009, he signed a bill into law that blocked local communities in Georgia from regulating factory farms to address animal cruelty, pollution or any other hazard. He took money from Monsanto and other pesticide companies for his gubernatorial campaigns. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a front group for the GMO industry, named Perdue their 2009 Governor of the Year.

For EPA Administrator:

Kathleen Hartnett White headed up the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The Dallas Morning News summarized her leadership of the TCEQ saying, “She has been an apologist for polluters, consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health.” White currently advocates against environmental regulation as a lobbyist for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a corporate front group funded by companies including Koch Industries and ExxonMobil. White, who also serves on Trump's Agriculture Advisory Committee, is a longtime rancher with a cattle operation in West Texas. She represented the factory farm beef industry at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Texas Hereford Association and the American Hereford Association.

Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, is an outspoken opponent of the EPA's efforts to address factory farms that pollute drinking water. Pruitt was one of the first state attorneys general to file suit against the EPA over its new “Waters of the United States” rule. His position against protecting drinking water from factory farm waste has no doubt been shaped by his campaign contributors, which include the Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) and Monsanto. The Humane Society of the U.S. named Pruitt the nation's least animal friendly attorney general for teaming up with the OFB to oppose “efforts to crack down on puppy mills, horse slaughter, the exotic pet trade, factory farming, and just about every other animal welfare issue you can think of.”

Check back here for the latest news on Trump’s nominees. We’ll keep this alert updated. In the meantime, tell your Senators: Don’t Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA!