President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday announced the last of his cabinet nominees. Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has been chosen to lead the Agriculture Department. Farm advocates in our region say it’s a good choice and are hopeful he will be a strong advocate on key agricultural issues.
Trump’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was raised on a farm. A veterinarian, Perdue served in the Georgia state Senate as a Democrat before being elected governor of Georgia in 2003 as a Republican. Perdue is the last cabinet selection for the incoming Trump administration.
New York Farm Bureau Associate Director of National Affairs Elizabeth Wolters says they have been anxiously awaiting an announcement from the transition team as to who will lead the federal ag agency. “It’s really important with the 2018 Farm Bill discussions coming up this spring if not sooner. So we've been anxiously awaiting a nomination. We are happy that he does have a background in the agriculture. We think that's very important. He grew up on a row crop farm in central Georgia. He's a veterinarian by trade and he still owns several agribusinesses.”
Agrimark Economist Bob Wellington says the coop hasn’t worked directly with the nominee but has heard relatively good things about him from farmers in the Southeast. “He does have an understanding of farming and the importance of it. He knows about a lot of the regulations that have stifled dairy farmers. So I think he's going to take a practical look at that. So we're very enthusiastic about it. So under all the circumstances that are out there we think he's probably a very good choice.”
Some are uncertain what Perdue will bring to the table. Rural Vermont Executive Director Andrea Stander says there is anxiety regarding future federal ag policy during the Trump administration. “The fact that he's last (giggles) of all the nominees is a worrisome indication that agriculture isn't very important for the president-elect. I think what's more worrisome is that as far as I can tell from Mr. Perdue’s background is that he will be someone much more inclined to pay attention to the needs of the large scale corporate agribusiness of the country.”
The Farm Bureau’s Wolters hopes the new ag secretary, if confirmed, will immediately address key issues. “The first would be the 2018 Farm Bill to really start examining the programs that were set up in the 2014, particularly dairy program in New York. Margin protection program for dairy has not worked quite as the dairy farmers here in New York thought that it would. Especially right now with the dairy prices being so low we're really concerned for our dairy farmers out there.”
Wellington adds: “We hope he advocates for immigration reform because immigration is huge for dairy farms. The value of trade for dairy farmers is very very important, in fact for all of agriculture. We think he's going to be a good advocate and we hope for agriculture and dairy farming.
Perdue will appear before the U.S. Senate Agriculture committee for his confirmation hearing. Committee chairman Senator Pat Roberts promised a “thorough confirmation process.” Committee member Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia is Sonny Perdue’s cousin. Vermont’s Patrick Leahy and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand are both minority members of the committee.