Senate confirms Sonny Perdue as USDA secretary

By Ben Potter, AgWeb.com

It has been 101 days since Tom Vilsack abruptly departed as Secretary of Agriculture a full week before President Donald Trump took office. Now, that vacancy that has been officially filled by former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue by a vote of 87 to 11 during a April 24, 2017 Senate hearing.

Ahead of today’s vote, Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the nominating committee received letters of recommendation from six prior Secretaries of Agriculture, and urged bipartisan support for an industry that has much work ahead drafting the next farm bill and pursuing new trade agreements, among other tasks with which Perdue will be highly involved.

During Perdue’s March 23 confirmation hearing, he was pressed by Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., about Trump’s proposed 21% budget cuts to USDA.

“Having not been confirmed, I’ve had no input into the budget, obviously,” he told her, adding that as Georgia governor, he came across budgets he didn’t always like, “but I managed to it.”

At the same hearing, Perdue fielded a wide variety of questions with topics that included opening trade to Cuba, developing trade markets in other parts of the world, immigration reform, food safety, RFS, rural infrastructure, rural safety and more. Perdue spoke passionately about farming – and farmers.

“The vitality of our small communities really depends on a strong farm economy,” he said. “Agriculture is in my heart, and I look forward to being a fighter for our nation’s producers.”

Prior to getting a taste for politics in the early 1990s, Perdue grew up on a farm and spent some time working as a veterinarian, also starting three small businesses along the way. (Note: he is not related to the family that owns and operates Perdue Farms.)

Perdue’s pick has largely drawn praise from analysts, including Roger Bernard, a policy analyst with Informa Economics.

“Perdue knows agriculture – grain and livestock in particular,” he says. “He should be a good spokesperson for ag, and that’s important as we approach our next farm bill, and as society continues to shift away from the farm.”

With the confirmation, Perdue becomes the 31st Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Labor is the lone cabinet post yet to receive Senate confirmation.

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