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Abel Maldonado Meets With Trump About Secretary of Agriculture Job

Santa Maria farmer-turned-politician is among 4 people, including 3 Texans, being considered

Abel Maldonado Jr., a farmer-turned-politician with roots in the Santa Maria Valley, is being considered for the secretary of agriculture post on the Trump administration. Click to view larger
Abel Maldonado Jr., a farmer-turned-politician with roots in the Santa Maria Valley, is being considered for the secretary of agriculture post on the Trump administration. (Noozhawk file photo)

Abel Maldonado Jr., a farmer-turned-politician with roots in the Santa Maria Valley, may land a spot in the Trump administration, leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Maldonado, the son of immigrant farm workers, is among the candidates reportedly in contention to be named secretary of agriculture by President-elect Donald Trump. 

The Santa Maria resident met with the president-elect at his Florida estate, Mar-A-Lago, on Wednesday.

Maldonado is a former Santa Maria councilman and mayor who served at the state level as assemblyman and senator before being named the state’s 48th lieutenant governor.

Santa Maria's community youth center bears Maldonado's name.

He shares a key habit with Trump — a habit for Twitter.

“Yesterday @MarALago with @realDonaldTrump today back at the ranch @abelmaldonado @RunwayVineyards #MAGA,” Maldonado tweeted Thursday afternoon.

And Twitter is where many supporters showed their approval of the Californian leading the Department of Agriculture.

“As a fellow 3rd generation farmer, there wouldn't be a better choice for Sec of Ag than @abelmaldonado,” First District State Assemblyman Brian Dahle said on his Twitter page.

Ag industry members told California Ag Today they hoped the new ag secretary would come from the state — and its fresh fruit and vegetable industry — rather than a typical grain or cotton state.

Deemed a rising star, Maldonado fell out of favor with the Republican faithful after crossing party lines to end a state budget stalemate during the term of his friend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Maldonado’s bid to be elected lieutenant governor failed in 2010, with Democrat Gavin Newsom winning state government’s number two job.

Later political forays for state controller, congress and governor ended unsuccessfully. He has had reports of tax problems and  a class action lawsuit claiming his business failed to pay overtime.

Along with helping run the family’s Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises for strawberries and vegetables, Maldonado and his daughter, Erika Maldonado, operate Runway Vineyards.

Trump reportedly is talking to three Texans — the state’s agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller; former Texas agriculture commissioner Susan Combs; and former Texas A&M president Elsa Murano — along with Maldonado, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture — USDA for short — is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. 

The agency is responsible for overseeing plant and animal health inspections and the Farm Service Agency.

It also includes the U.S. Forest Service, which manages 193 million acres of public lands in 155 national forests and 20 grasslands.

The next ag secretary will become the 31st, filling the job now held by Tom Vilsack, who came from Iowa.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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