As Trump meets biotech CEOs, farm advisers fret over empty USDA spot

Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:12am EST
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By Tom Polansek and P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has left the agriculture secretary as the last department head to be named to his Cabinet, while a meeting with the chief executives of two agribusiness giants gave a hint at a roster of farm issues the incoming president will face.

Trump met on Wednesday with the leaders of Monsanto Co (MON.N: Quote) and Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE: Quote), who pitched the benefits of their proposed $66 billion merger. While critical of other large tie-ups, Trump has not publicly taken a stance on the Bayer-Monsanto deal.

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not approve or reject the merger but will face the issue of industry consolidation.

Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N: Quote) has proposed to merge with DuPont (DD.N: Quote), and China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) [CNNCC.UL] is seeking to acquire Syngenta AG (SYNN.S: Quote).

Trade, environmental regulation and the 2018 federal farm bill are also expected to be at the top of the farm agenda once Trump takes office Jan. 20, according members of an agricultural advisory committee he formed during the campaign.

How Trump responds on those issues - and who he picks to lead the USDA - could determine whether he is able to maintain the strong rural support he demonstrated in the Nov. 8 election.

Some committee members told Reuters they have had meetings with Trump and his advisers, and have suggested possible nominees to help define the type of person who should lead the department.

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is Trump's leading candidate to run the department, a senior Trump transition team official said last week.   Continued...

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump leaves a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton