Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight


By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill



President-elect Joe Biden is eyeing the departments of Agriculture and Transportation as key partners for achieving his climate goals, exciting progressives by broadening efforts beyond traditional environmental agencies.


Biden’s climate plan calls for harnessing the power of agriculture to capture and store carbon while innovating to reduce its own footprint. In the transportation sector, he’s called for a massive investment in transit and electric vehicle infrastructure to reduce reliance on gas-powered vehicles.


But some of Biden’s potential picks are already generating concern from left-leaning interest groups, particularly those that want the incoming administration to surpass former President Obama’s accomplishments by using the full force of the federal government to tackle climate change.


Among those considered to lead the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio.).


Fudge has been openly campaigning for the job, telling Politico earlier this month that she’s been “very, very loyal to the ticket” and encouraging the Biden administration to place Black leaders in roles beyond traditional posts like Housing and Urban Development secretary.


Heitkamp has been more circumspect but didn’t rule out interest. After losing reelection in 2018 after only one term, she formed the One Country Fund, a political action committee that seeks to bolster Democratic prospects in rural America, an area where Democrats have struggled to make inroads.


“Joe Biden has the opportunity to put together a Cabinet that reflects all parts of America, and I know what decision he makes is going to be the right one,” Heitkamp told The Hill.


“We all have to make America unified to work again, so I’m very, very excited about Joe Biden as our next president of the United States and for Kamala Harris as our next vice president.”


Heitkamp’s government record before coming to Congress included defending North Dakota’s anti-corporate agriculture law as state attorney general in the 1990s. In Washington, she served on the Senate Agriculture Committee.


But her potential nomination for Agriculture secretary is already facing resistance from a host of left-leaning environmental and farmworker groups, hitting the former senator for her moderate voting record, acceptance of campaign contributions from large agribusiness and her overall environmental record.


More than 130 groups, including Friends of the Earth and Farmworker Justice, sent a letter to the Biden transition team urging them to avoid selecting Heitkamp due to her acceptance of donations from fossil fuel companies and her support for President Trump’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the only other Democrat to support Scott Pruitt when he was nominated...


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