Farmers and ranchers across the country have been rallying around a new sheriff in town: Trump’s pick to run the Department of Agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Labor has appointed Johnathan J. Johnson as the new acting head of the agency.
Johnson, an associate professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, is a veteran of the Justice Department and the Trump White House who has served as an assistant attorney general for the Justice, Agriculture and Labor Departments.
The move has drawn a storm of criticism from some lawmakers and farm groups who say Johnson’s experience at the Justice and Labor departments could be a conflict of interest.
The Texas Tribune reports: The department has been criticized for not investigating allegations that Johnson had a financial relationship with a convicted felon.
Johnson has said he did nothing wrong.
In a statement, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it is concerned about Johnson’s “history of conflicts of interest,” including the past involvement of his former wife, who is the former chair of a law firm.
“While there is a risk that he could be biased towards one industry over another, his record suggests that his priorities are consistent with his positions at the DOJ and with the Trump Administration,” the statement said.
Johnson was confirmed by the Senate on May 19.
The White House on Friday said Johnson’s confirmation is a victory for “working families and the environment.”
“We are confident that he will lead a department that will protect and advance the interests of American farmers and rancher, while at the same time protecting the country’s environment and protecting the rights of American workers,” White House press secretary Eric Schultz said in a statement.
The Agriculture Department is the U-S-government’s largest consumer of beef, pork and poultry.
The Trump administration has been aggressively pushing the agency to make cuts to programs that support the nation’s dairy, wheat and sugar industries, which make up about 20 percent of the countrys food supply.
Some critics of the department have criticized Johnson for his close ties to the meat industry.
A letter signed by more than 150 dairy farmers, ranchers and agribusiness companies accused Johnson of “releasing a record number of documents on the agency’s efforts to cut costs.”
The letter said he “has a history of releasing taxpayer-funded records without any justification and has not even met with the agency and its employees to discuss the cuts he has proposed.”
“Mr. Johnson’s record shows he is a friend of the meat and dairy industries, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the U,S.
Chamber of Commerce and has been a key supporter of the Iowa-based Iowa State University and Iowa Farm Bureau,” the letter said.”
We will not allow Mr. Johnson to continue to hold the USDA accountable for its actions that have already caused billions of dollars in harm to our nation’s economy and our environment.”