In the US, the Department of Agriculture (the USDA) oversees and conducts an incredible amount of scientific research related to protecting and improving our agriculture, nutrition, food distribution, and our use of natural resources. The head of the USDA research division, known as the USDA Chief Scientist, is required to steer these many and varied scientific projects in the most effective direction. What scientific questions should we be asking? Which research projects are being run efficiently? What research-based evidence do we already have as opposed to what questions need further study?
The 2008 Farm Bill which first established the Office of the Chief Scientist states that the president is expected to select a “distinguished scientist” to fill the role. However, researchers and farmers have voiced concern over the current administration’s plan to instead appoint to the position someone with no scientific background, Sam Clovis, a former business professor and radio talk show host. To understand the research programs that would be operating under the nonscientist’s supervision and guidance, let’s look at why science is important to the USDA: