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All of the premature reporting of who will be the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has me wondering whatever happened to the state of journalism today. Whatever happened to the concept of verify first, then report?
We all know that President-elect Donald Trump is a bit unpredictable, so it’s kind of fun to wonder what he will do next. Ever since Trump was elected, and even before, people were throwing around names about who he would select to head the USDA.
My home state of Kansas had two people’s names being mentioned as possible nominees. One was Gov. Sam Brownback, while the other was lame-duck Congressman Tim Huelskamp.
Then several days later, The Hill reported that Trump asked Sen. Jerry Moran, also a Kansan, to be his agriculture secretary.
That was evidently news to Moran, a former House Agriculture Committee member and current chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on agriculture.
“While press reports indicate otherwise, I have not been offered the position of Secretary of Agriculture,” Moran told WIBW and other news sources. “I have been given a great opportunity to continue serving Kansas in the United States Senate, and that will be my full focus.”
Several weeks after the Moran rumor spread, South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s name came about as a top contender. The New York Times reported that Noem, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, will travel to New York to visit with the Trump team concerning serving as the agriculture secretary.
But KSFY reported that a Noem spokeperson said the Times was inaccurate in its reporting, and Noem had no plans to meet with him about an agriculture secretary nomination.
“I’m convinced the best way for me to help President Trump succeed while also producing the greatest impact for South Dakota is to serve out my two-year term in the House of Representatives," Noem said in a statement.
It is possible that Moran and/or Noem are being coy and that they are just trying to assure their constituents who just elected each of them to a new term that they will continue to represent them. Regardless, the reality is nobody has been officially nominated.
So how much more of these speculative and unverified reports will we have to read until an actual nomination is made?
Larry Dreiling, senior field editor at the High Plains Journal and adjunct professor at Fort Hays State University, who in my opinion is one of the most knowledgeable journalists around when it comes to ag policy, had some interesting observations in a recent column.
Dreiling reported that the earliest agriculture secretary nomination in recent history was when George W. Bush nominated Mike Johanns to be the secretary during his second term. Johanns was nominated on December 2.
But other recent nominations were made much later. Bill Clinton waited until December 24 to nominate Mike Espy as his first secretary in 1992, and Ronald Reagan waited until December 23 to nominate John Block as secretary. The median date for nominations made at the start of a term is December 20, Dreiling reported, citing Chuck Abbott of the Food and Environment Reporting Network as his historian of authority.
If history repeats itself, we still have a few days to wait. So I’d like to encourage all reporters out there to please do just that: Wait.