Rep. Salazar confirms he’s in running to head Department of Agriculture

Rep. John Salazar, a Mannassa potato farmer who last month won election to a third term representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, confirmed Wednesday morning he “may” be under consideration to head the Department of Agriculture in an Obama administration, The Denver Post reports. His name is among those pushed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) in a letter sent Tuesday to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team in a bid to secure spots in an administration Hispanic leaders feel owes its existence, at least in part, to overwhelming support from Hispanic voters.

Salazar gave the following statement to the Post after the newspaper learned he was on the “short list” for the Agriculture spot:

“I am humbled that I may be under consideration as a possible nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. Should President-elect Obama honor me with a nomination to Agriculture, I would certainly consider it. However, at this time, I am continuing my work on behalf of my constituents in the 3rd Congressional District and preparing for the many difficult challenges facing the 111th Congress.”

“I’ve lived agriculture and I sleep agriculture,” Salazar told the Post. “I certainly want to make sure that this country continues to be able to produce a safe food supply. It would be a sad day in America if when we ever have to depend on other countries to produce our food.” He told the Post he’s spoken with the Obama transition team but hasn’t had a formal interview.

Salazar, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, is one of only a few farmers in Congress, the Post points out. He’s also led the battle against the devastating pine beetle infestation in national forests, which are administered by the Department of Agriculture.

An Agriculture secretary could have a greater role in an Obama administration than in previous ones. “Some have pushed for a new definition of farming to encompass such areas as wind farms,” the Post notes.

The Hill reported Tuesday night on the letter the CHC sent the Obama transition team:

The members of Congress whom the CHC is pushing include Reps. John Salazar (D-Colo.) for secretary of Agriculture, Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) for secretary of Education, Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) for secretary of Interior, Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for Environmental Protection Agency administrator and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) for secretary of Labor. …

“We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” reads a portion of the letter obtained by The Hill. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”

Hispanic leaders have also pushed the name of Salazar’s younger brother, Sen. Ken Salazar, as a possible nominee to the Supreme Court. The senator’s name was floated earlier in the transition as a possible secretary of the Interior but he has said that’s not in the cards.

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