There’s only a handful of vacancies left blank in President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet, including Secretary of Agriculture. Three Texans have been named top contenders to lead the department, according to Trump’s transition team who have met with various candidates over the past week.
Former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano met with Trump on Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Murano served as U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety in the administration of President George W. Bush.
The meeting comes just days after Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with Susan Combs in Washington. Combs held the title of Texas Comptroller and Texas Agriculture Commissioner for several years.
Current Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is the third Texan on Trump’s shortlist. Miller is meeting with Trump’s transition team on Friday afternoon in Florida. He says he plans to discuss the cabinet position as well as agriculture issues important to Texas and the nation.
“I’m excited about going and seeing if I can help make America great again,” Miller said. “The Texas Department of Agriculture operates the nutritional programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). So I have some suggestions on how we can streamline that and make it more efficient, just like I have done in the Texas Department of Agriculture since I have been in office.”
Miller has been working closely with Trump for several months. He currently sits on the president-elect’s Agricultural Advisory Team and serves as a point of contact for the transition team on agricultural and border security issues.
“I’m gonna take those same real world business experiences that I have and explain to them how that can be used in the same matter for the USDA,” Miller said. “I’ll tell you what though, if I become Secretary of Agriculture, that would be great for Texas, but if I don’t, I’ve got a good job now that I really, really like serving as the state’s agriculture commissioner.”
Steve Verett with Plains Cotton Growers says he is not surprised Trump is looking to Texas, the second largest agricultural state in the nation behind California, to fill the position.
“Having never had a secretary of agriculture from Texas, you know we are pretty excited about that,” Verett said. “The secretary of agriculture is the bully pulpit for agriculture, and that’s in all issues when it comes to trade, promotion, foreign policy, and the regulatory arena as well. So we just need someone who understand all of that and would be willing to be a strong advocate for agriculture.”
The USDA oversees the American farming industry. The secretary of agriculture is responsible for providing leadership on issues related to food, agriculture, and natural resources.
“We have to work with whoever comes into that position,” Verett said. “Our overriding fact is their demonstrated ability and knowledge of agriculture, and all three of those candidates in our opinion would be well suited for the job.”
Trump has already selected two Texans for cabinet positions. Earlier this month Trump tapped Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state and former Governor Rick Perry for secretary of energy.