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USDA under review

Two former Agriculture Department officials, Bart Chilton and Carole Jett, will lead an examination of USDA to prepare for the Obama administration, the president-elect’s office said Nov. 14.

USDA is partway through implementation of the 2008 farm law with some key decisions remaining. Most prominent are how high to set the benchmark for a new revenue-guarantee program and how to tighten rules on farm subsidies.

Chilton was a deputy chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and worked for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle before becoming a commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2007.

Jett retired in May from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, where she was associate deputy chief and the agency’s Farm Bill co-ordinator. She worked on agricultural issues in Indiana for Obama’s election.

Additional members of the team are expected soon.

Obama will take office on Jan. 20. His office indicated he wants a speedy start to his administration. During the campaign, he supported development of new-generation biofuels and a strict $125,000 a year cap on subsidies.

It said teams will complete a thorough review of federal departments so incoming officials can “make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration” and “ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.”

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