U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named Dr. Mindy Brashears as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Naomi Earp as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights, and Dr. Scott Hutchins as deputy under secretary for research, education, and economics for USDA. Because these are deputy positions, they do not require Senate confirmation. The three began in their new positions Jan. 29, 2019.
The three previously had been nominated by President Donald Trump for Senate-confirmed positions at USDA. While the Senate Agriculture Committee favorably reported all three nominees, their nominations expired without receiving confirmation votes by the end of the 115th Congress in early January. The President has resubmitted their nominations to the Senate in the 116th Congress for more senior roles: Dr. Brashears was nominated for Under Secretary for Food Safety; Earp was nominated for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; and Dr. Hutchins was nominated for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.
While in their deputy roles, they will not be serving in “acting” capacities for the positions for which they have been nominated. As a result, they will not be able to exercise the functions or powers expressly delegated to the Senate-confirmed positions. As deputy under secretary for research, education, and economics, Dr. Hutchins will oversee the office of the chief scientist, with Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young continuing to serve as acting chief scientist.
“At USDA, we’ve been engaged in fulfilling our mission without all of our players on the field, so we want to get these strong, qualified leaders in the game,” Perdue said. “I want to thank these three for their patience, as their professional lives have been placed on hold for months during their nomination process. Now, they will get to work right away on behalf of the American people. Nevertheless, I urge the Senate to act on their new nominations as quickly as possible, so we can have them in the positions for which they were intended in the first place.”
About the deputies:
Dr. Mindy Brashears is a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. Dr. Brashears’ research program focuses on improving food safety standards to make an impact on public health. Her work evaluates interventions in pre- and post-harvest environments and on the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance in animal feeding systems. These efforts have resulted in commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce E. coli and Salmonella in cattle. She also leads international research teams to Mexico, Central and South America to improve food safety and security and to set up sustainable agriculture systems in impoverished areas. She is past-chair of the National Alliance for Food Safety and Security and of the USDA multi-state research group.
Naomi Earp, J.D. is a retired career civil servant with more than 20 years of experience in federal equal opportunity policy, charge processing, complaint handling, and employment law. She entered federal services as a GS-9 career employee and worked her way to the senior executive service level prior to appointments as chair and vice chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush. Throughout her career, Earp has been a strong advocate for labor-management partnership and cooperative business models to raise awareness and address both disparate treatment complaints and allegations of systemic discrimination. Her federal equal opportunity, civil rights compliance, and public policy career includes positions with the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. Born and raised in Newport News, Virginia, Earp received a B.S. in social work from Norfolk State University, an M.A. from Indiana University, and a Juris Doctorate from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.