State Politics

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s staff says he’s contender for U.S. agriculture secretary

Gov. Butch Otter, left, and Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO of Chobani, sport medals commemorating the grand opening of Chobani’s Twin Falls manufacturing plant in this December 2012 file photo.
Gov. Butch Otter, left, and Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO of Chobani, sport medals commemorating the grand opening of Chobani’s Twin Falls manufacturing plant in this December 2012 file photo. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s governor is being vetted to be the next secretary of agriculture under the Trump administration.

Butch Otter is one of several candidates being vetted for the post, his spokesman Jon Hanian, who was with Otter Wednesday at the Western Governors’ Association meeting in San Diego, told the Boise radio station 670 KBOI, which first reported on the possibility. Otter spokesman Mark Warbis confirmed the report to the Times-News.

Otter’s name was also floated late last month as a possible candidate for the job of interior secretary. Earlier this week U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York City on Monday, was also mentioned as a candidate for that post. It was reported Tuesday, though, that Trump is going to offer the Interior Secretary position to U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has also been reported as a candidate for the top ag job; Politico reported a few days ago that she was the leading candidate. U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., was also being vetted for the post but has publicly said she wouldn't take it.

According to the New York Times, other candidates include Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller; and Chuck Conner, the chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

If Otter were to accept a job in D.C., Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who has already announced his intent to run for governor in 2018, would become governor. Otter has already declared that his current term would be his last.

One of the secretary of agriculture’s duties is helping to develop foreign markets for American products, an area where Otter has some unique experience — he did this extensively during his time as president of the potato giant Simplot International, traveling to more than 80 countries, and he has led numerous trade missions abroad as governor.

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