It will likely be September before high-level vacancies, including a deputy secretary position, are filled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told senators Tuesday six nominees submitted to the White House still await a background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and clearance from the ethics office.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of urgency in those areas to get people cleared,” Perdue said.
The secretary did not identify the nominees, but told senators he believes they are capable people whom the Senate will be proud to confirm, Successful Farming reports.
To date, the Secretary of Agriculture’s seat is the only agricultural-related position to gain Senate confirmation under the new administration.
At least 15 executive posts at USDA remain unfilled by nominees. Their duties are currently being handled by senior civil servants appointed by President Barack Obama before leaving office, according to Successful Farming.
Despite the vacancies, Perdue assured senators issues are not piling up or falling through the cracks.
Congress enters a month-long recess in August. Both chambers return to session on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
While the USDA awaits those appointments, Perdue has wasted no time in moving USDA forward.
Earlier this week, Perdue named Anne Hazlett, Chief Counsel to the Majority on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, to lead the rural development agencies at USDA.
As the Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, Hazlett will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service and the Rural Housing Service at USDA.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) cheered her selection for the post.
“Anne Hazlett brings a depth of experience on rural development issues that should benefit American farmers and ranchers and strengthen the rural communities they call home. Her background in rural issues in Indiana and her background in agricultural policy make her an ideal candidate to lead USDA’s effort to grow our rural economies,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said.
Hazlett’s appointment is part of a USDA realignment Perdue announced after being sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture.
“As Congress weighs in on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s proposal to reorganize USDA, we commend him for putting an experienced hand on his team as assistant to the secretary for rural development,” Duvall said. “As the proposed reorganization moves forward, it is heartening to know Ms. Hazlett will have an open door and will report directly to the secretary as she carries out this crucial responsibility of advancing policies and programs to serve rural America.”
Hazlett, a graduate of Kansas State University, has worked on agriculture and rural issues for more than 15 years.