Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Russell Redding is reportedly under consideration to lead USDA in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report, mentioned Redding during an online conference Nov. 19, and DTN/The Progressive Farmer, citing two unnamed lobbyists, reported that Redding had agreed to be considered.
Redding, in his third term as an appointed ag secretary, would bring a track record of pragmatic success to Washington. Working with Pennsylvania’s Republican-led Legislature, he championed last year’s PA Farm Bill, which provided $23 million to a dozen new ag programs.
Reflecting campaign goals of Gov. Tom Wolf, Redding has prioritized ag workforce development. He commissioned a strategic plan to keep the state’s farm economy competitive, and has focused particular energy on the nation’s seventh largest dairy economy during a protracted downturn in milk prices.
Redding has also served as a dean at what is now Delaware Valley University and as a staffer for the late Sen. Harris Wofford.
Redding would give Cabinet representation to Pennsylvania, the battleground state that clinched Biden’s Electoral College victory. The state Ag Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Redding’s vetting for the post.
Redding, a former dairy farmer from Adams County, was not among the initial favorites for ag secretary reported by news outlets.
That honor goes to former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Since losing re-election in 2018, Heitkamp has led the One Country Project, an effort to rekindle Democrats’ connections to rural voters.
To the left of Heitkamp, progressives are building support for Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Black woman who heads the House Ag Committee's nutrition subcommittee.
There’s been buzz about Biden appointing a diverse Cabinet, including a woman as ag secretary.
Ann Veneman, appointed by George W. Bush, is the only woman to have led USDA so far.
But while Fudge’s specialty — food programs such as SNAP — are a major part of the agency’s budget, presidents have traditionally picked ag secretaries with agricultural constituencies. In that sense Fudge, who serves an urban Ohio district, would be an unorthodox pick.
Compared to Heitkamp or Redding, Fudge might also be a harder sell to Republicans, who will control the Senate if they win at least one of Georgia’s two seats in a Jan. 5 runoff.