Ohio’s senators voted to confirm the long-awaited George “Sonny” Perdue as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Both Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) supported Perdue, President Trump’s nominee for the second-to-last open cabinet position. Brown also voted to advance the nomination of Perdue out of the Agriculture Committee in March. During his confirmation process, Perdue told Brown he would visit Ohio if confirmed.
“One in seven jobs in Ohio depends on agriculture, and it’s critical that Governor Perdue follow through on his commitment to visit Ohio and learn about how he can support Ohio farmers,” said Brown. “I look forward to working with him across the spectrum of USDA programs – from strengthening the farm safety net, to funding conservation programs that keep Lake Erie clean, and battling the opioid epidemic.”
The confirmation was met with appreciation from U.S. agriculture amid growing concerns that the vital industry appears to be a low priority for the Trump Administration.
“Farm Bureau heartily congratulates Secretary Sonny Perdue on his new role leading our nation’s Agriculture Department. We are eager for agriculture to finally have a seat in the president’s cabinet, and we know Secretary Perdue is just as eager to get to work for farmers, consumers and rural America,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm bureau Federation. “Secretary Perdue is a long-time friend to me and farmers across Georgia, and soon to the millions of men and women across our country who feed and clothe our nation. He is a real-world farmer himself and knows the business inside out. He understands the impact farm labor shortages, trade agreements and regulations have on a farmer’s bottom line and ability to stay in business from one season to the next. There’s important work ahead for the secretary, and he’ll need to address these challenges against the backdrop of the biggest drop in farm prices and income we’ve seen in decades. But just like America’s farmers and ranchers, I know Secretary Perdue isn’t afraid of a hard day’s work. We are confident he is the right man for the job at hand.”
Here’s more background (provided by USDA) on the 31st Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture sworn in on April 25.
Sonny Perdue came by his knowledge of agriculture the old fashioned way: he was born into a farming family in Bonaire, Georgia. From childhood, and through his life in business and elected office, Perdue has experienced the industry from every possible perspective.
Perdue’s policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions. First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper.
Second, he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity.
Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist.
And fourth, Perdue will always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe. Perdue’s father’s words still ring true: We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.
Additionally, Perdue recognizes that American agriculture needs a strong advocate to promote its interests to international markets. The United States is blessed to be able to produce more than its citizens can consume, which implies that we should sell the bounty around the world. The relationship between the USDA and its trade representatives, as well as with the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce, will be vital. The work of promoting American agricultural products to other countries will begin with those relationships and will benefit us domestically, just as it will fulfill the moral imperative of helping to feed the world. Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.
Under Secretary Perdue, the USDA will always be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. He will seek solutions to problems and not lament that the agency might be faced with difficult challenges.
As a youngster growing up on a dairy and diversified row crop farm in rural Georgia, Perdue never fully realized that the blessings of purposeful, meaningful work would serve him as well as they have in life. When he was a young boy feeding the calves and plowing the fields, he was an integral part of the workforce on his father’s farm. As the son of a mother who was an English teacher for 42 years, he benefitted from her teachings as well — not just by instilling in him the beliefs he still holds dear, but also by lending him an appreciation and respect for language and proper grammar. But more than anything in his life, it was the family farm which shaped Sonny Perdue. He has lived and breathed the exhilaration of a great crop and the despair and devastation of a drought. He learned by experience what his father told him as a child, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”
The work ethic cemented in him by his farming roots has remained with Sonny Perdue throughout his life. As a younger man, he served his country in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Captain. After earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia, he put that training to use in private practice in North Carolina. As a member of the Georgia State Senate for eleven years, he eventually ascended to the position of President Pro Tempore as elected by his senate colleagues. As a two-term governor of Georgia, he was credited with transforming a budget deficit into a surplus, dramatically increasing the student performance in public schools, and fostering an economic environment that allowed employers to flourish and manufacturers and agricultural producers to achieve record levels of exports. He followed these accomplishments with a successful career in agribusiness, where he focused on commodities and transportation in enterprises that have spanned the southeastern United States. These experiences have proven invaluable in his current role as principal advocate for American agriculture and all that it serves.
Perdue is a strong believer in good government, in that it should operate efficiently and serve the needs of its customers: the people of the United States. As a state senator, he was recognized as a leading authority on issues including energy and utilities, agriculture, transportation, emerging technologies and economic development, and for his ability to grasp the nuances of complex problems. As governor, he reformed state budget priorities, helped Georgians create more than 200,000 new jobs, and promoted his home state around the world to attract new businesses. In 2009, the Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action magazine recognized Perdue as a leader who “aggressively pursued new strategies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of government and deliver better value at less cost to taxpayers.” In addition, he was named “Public Official of the Year” in October 2010 by Governing Magazine. To this day, his thoughts are never very far from the wishes of the citizens — the true owners of the government.
Perdue’s views on agriculture have always been shaped by his first-hand knowledge of all of its aspects, both as a farmer and as an agribusinessman. He appreciates the daily concerns and needs of American farmers, while also understanding the intricacies of global commodities markets. He is acknowledged as a national leader in agriculture, having served as a board member for the National Grain & Feed Association, and as President of both the Georgia Feed and Grain Association and the Southeastern Feed and Grain Association. Perdue has long-standing, close relationships with the leadership of the American Farm Bureau and has been recognized by the Georgia 4-H and FFA programs, among others, for his leadership in agriculture.
As the product of Georgia, a state where agriculture is the leading economic driver, Perdue recognizes that agriculture is an issue and industry which cuts across political party boundaries. He recognizes that the size, scope, and diversity of America’s agricultural sector requires reaching across the aisle so that partisanship doesn’t get in the way of good solutions for American farmers, ranchers, and consumers.
Perdue has been married to Mary Ruff Perdue for 44 years and has four adult children and fourteen grandchildren. He and his wife have served as foster parents for eight children awaiting adoption. Perdue remains a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot and avid outdoor sportsman.
President Trump on Tuesday, while seated beside the newly confirmed secretary on his right and a National FFA Officer on the other, held a roundtable discussion with farmers and signed an executive order aimed specifically at agriculture. The move was viewed by some as a way to show favor to rural America — a demographic that has felt left out after the lengthy time it took to confirm the leader of the USDA.
Called the “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America” Executive Order, the piece looks to deregulate cumbersome areas of agricultural law while at the same time establishing an interagency task force chaired by the ag secretary.
The following is the full text of the executive order as provided by the White House:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that affects agriculture and rural communities, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. A reliable, safe, and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply is critical to America’s national security, stability, and prosperity. It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture and protect the rural communities where food, fiber, forestry, and many of our renewable fuels are cultivated. It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, harm rural communities, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.
Sec. 2. Establishment of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. There is hereby established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (Task Force). The Department of Agriculture shall provide administrative support and funding for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.
Sec. 3. Membership. (a) The Secretary of Agriculture shall serve as Chair of the Task Force, which shall also include:
(i) the Secretary of the Treasury;
(ii) the Secretary of Defense;
(iii) the Attorney General;
(iv) the Secretary of the Interior;
(v) the Secretary of Commerce;
(vi) the Secretary of Labor;
(vii) the Secretary of Health and Human Services;
(viii) the Secretary of Transportation;
(ix) the Secretary of Energy;
(x) the Secretary of Education;
(xi) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
(xii) the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission;
(xiii) the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
(xiv) the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;
(xv) the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy;
(xvi) the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers;
(xvii) the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;
(xviii) the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy;
(xix) the Administrator of the Small Business Administration;
(xx) the United States Trade Representative;
(xxi) the Director of the National Science Foundation; and
(xxii) the heads of such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the President or the Secretary of Agriculture may, from time to time, designate.
(b) A member of the Task Force may designate a senior level official who is a full-time officer or employee of the member’s department, agency, or office to perform the member’s functions on the Task Force.
Sec. 4. Purpose and Functions of the Task Force. (a) The Task Force shall identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote in rural America agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life, including changes that:
(i) remove barriers to economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America;
(ii) advance the adoption of innovations and technology for agricultural production and long-term, sustainable rural development;
(iii) strengthen and expand educational opportunities for students in rural communities, particularly in agricultural education, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
(iv) empower the State, local, and tribal agencies that implement rural economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs to tailor those programs to relevant regional circumstances;
(v) respect the unique circumstances of small businesses that serve rural communities and the unique business structures and regional diversity of farms and ranches;
(vi) require executive departments and agencies to rely upon the best available science when reviewing or approving crop protection tools;
(vii) ensure access to a reliable workforce and increase employment opportunities in agriculture-related and rural-focused businesses;
(viii) promote the preservation of family farms and other agribusiness operations as they are passed from one generation to the next, including changes to the estate tax and the tax valuation of family or cooperatively held businesses;
(ix) ensure that water users’ private property rights are not encumbered when they attempt to secure permits to operate on public lands;
(x) improve food safety and ensure that regulations and policies implementing Federal food safety laws are based on science and account for the unique circumstances of farms and ranches;
(xi) encourage the production, export, and use of domestically produced agricultural products;
(xii) further the Nation’s energy security by advancing traditional and renewable energy production in the rural landscape; and
(xiii) address hurdles associated with access to resources on public lands for the rural communities that rely on cattle grazing, timber harvests, mining, recreation, and other multiple uses.
(b) The Task Force shall, in coordination with the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, provide State, local, and tribal officials — and farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other rural stakeholders — with an opportunity to suggest to the Task Force legislative, regulatory, and policy changes.
(c) The Task Force shall coordinate its efforts with other reviews of regulations or policy, including those conducted pursuant to Executive Order 13771 of January 30, 2017 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs), Executive Order 13778 of February 28, 2017 (Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule), and Executive Order 13783 of March 28, 2017 (Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth).
Sec. 5. Report. Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the other members of the Task Force, shall submit a report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, recommending the legislative, regulatory, or policy changes identified pursuant to section 4 of this order that the Task Force considers appropriate. The Secretary of Agriculture shall provide a copy of the final report to each member of the Task Force.
Sec. 6. Revocation. Executive Order 13575 of June 9, 2011 (Establishment of the White House Rural Council), is hereby revoked.
Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.