Colorado Democrat says he's under consideration for USDA
If nominated and confirmed, Rep. John Salazar would be the first Hispanic Agriculture secretary.
President-elect Obama is considering nominating Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., for Agriculture secretary, according to a statement from Salazar.
"I am humbled that I may be under consideration as a possible nominee for Secretary of Agriculture," Salazar, 55, said in a statement responding to a request for comment from the Denver Post.
"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 Third Congressional District and preparing for the many difficult challenges facing the 111th Congress," the statement added.
Salazar told the Post he had talked to the Obama transition team but had not been interviewed. The newspaper reported that he also said: "I've lived agriculture and I sleep agriculture. 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... we ever have to depend on other countries to produce our food." If nominated and confirmed, Salazar would be the first Hispanic Agriculture secretary. His brother is Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar.
A potato seed farmer and cattle rancher on Colorado's Western Slope, Salazar in 2004 won an open seat in a district that had been held by former Republican Rep. Scott McInnis for six terms. Parts of the district have been occupied by Spanish-speaking people for 350 years, but it also includes the city of Pueblo and the ski resort town of Vail.
Salazar grew up on a ranch that has been in the family since 1850. It is located in the San Luis Valley, one of the most beautiful but poorest areas of the state. According to his congressional biography, he shared a bedroom with five siblings, with no running water or electricity.
After graduating from high school, he served in the Army before getting a business degree from Adams State College and developing his successful farming operation.
While his brother became involved in politics, serving as Colorado's attorney general before his election to the Senate, John Salazar stuck to farming and ranching.
When developers tried to buy up water rights he became an advocate for farmers in the dispute. He served one term in the state House before running for Congress.
According to the Almanac of American Politics, Salazar emphasized his farm background rather than his Hispanic heritage in his first race. In Congress he has also expressed concerns about government spending levels.
Salazar serves on the House Agriculture Committee and played a role in the 2008 farm bill by insisting on more aid for fruit and vegetable growers and for renewable fuels research.
During the farm bill debate, he told a National Farmers Union audience that the bill had to be written on a bipartisan basis because "there are too few of us to divide ourselves along partisan lines and partisan bickering."
A Republican commodity lobbyist said Wedneday that Salazar "would be incredible," and a "great pick." The lobbyist added that Salazar is "respected on both sides of the aisle, and fair."
Meanwhile, sources close to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she is not interested in the Agriculture post. Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who has been frequently mentioned as a likely secretary, last week told the Des Moines Register that the Obama transition team had not contacted him about the Agriculture position or any other in the administration.