President Clinton Picks Muslim for Agriculture Post

President Clinton has nominated an American Muslim as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If appointed, Dr. Islam Siddiqui would be the highest-ranking Muslim official in the United States government.

The agricultural position supervises nearly 10,000 employees within three USDA agencies. The under secretary is also responsible for dealing with department policy issues and representing the agency in Congressional hearings.

Siddiqui, who still faces confirmation from the U.S. Senate, says he is grateful for the opportunity.

"I am delighted President Clinton nominated me," said Siddiqui in an interview with

If Siddiqui receives confirmation before the end of this Congressional session, he would still need approval from the new Bush administration to remain in the position beyond January 20, 2001. But if the Senate does not hold confirmation hearings on his nomination by the end of this session, Siddiqui would become an interim under secretary until the new Bush White House makes its decision on the post.

When asked whether he was optimistic about his prospects to stay on with the USDA after January, Siddiqui said he is keeping a close eye on the new administration's cabinet picks.

"I will hold judgement for now...I am waiting to see whether other democrats are being invited to join...that there is a sincere effort to include democrats," Siddiqui said. Until then, he said he was not sure whether he would be willing to stay on working under a Republican administration.

Prior to his nomination, he served as the Executive Assistant to the Secretary at the USDA, focusing on the coordination and development of the USDA's agricultural trade policy since 1999.

Before joining the USDA, Dr. Siddiqui worked at the California Department of Food and Agriculture for 28 years. As the Director for the Division of Plant Industry, Dr. Siddiqui was responsible for the plant pest prevention programs in California. He worked closely with USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in resolving a number of agricultural export problems with China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union member nations.

Dr. Siddiqui received his B.S. in Plant Protection from Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar, India, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

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