Two ag secretary potentials work to the top

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Many names have been tossed around for the lead man (or woman) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. President-elect Barack Obama has steadily named members of his future team, but the verdict is still out on a new agriculture secretary. Last week among Washington circles the list had been narrowed down to three: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Rep. John Salazar from Colorado and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop from Georgia.

Over the weekend, Kathleen Sebelius took her name out of the running for any of the mentioned secretary positions she could fill: agriculture, energy or transportation. Barry Flichbaugh said if she was named, the ag "department would be in good hands."

Salazar is a potato seed farmer and cattle rancher, and one of only a handful of active farmers in Congress. He serves on the House Agriculture Committee and stated this "allows him to defend rural values and make sure that the interests of family farmers are protected."

Salazar is a supporter of renewable energy and sees federal government support as important for agriculture to "remain a reliable and viable part of our nation's economy," according to statement's on his Web site. His involvement in the fruit and vegetable industry also pairs nicely with Obama's emphasis on encouraging these types of farming systems.

Bishop is not a member of the House Agriculture Committee, but is on the powerful Appropriations Committee since 2003 and on the ag appropriations subcommittee since 2006. He is a conservative member of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chaired Obama's Georgia campaign. He has served for 16 years representing Georgia for its 2nd Congressional District. He has been very active on peanut issues, including the approval of $74 million for peanut storage in the supplemental spending bill.

Monday Obama's transition team met with farm and rural members. An announcement on the ag secretary is expected before Christmas.


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