By Ashley Davenport and Susan Skiles Luke
Sonny Perdue picks up key support in the meantime
President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, has picked up an important endorsement, though he hasn’t yet secured a date for his confirmation hearing.
Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s spoken with Perdue and thinks he will be able to do the job. “Perdue knows full well the opportunities and challenges that exist in rural communities,” Vilsack says. So far, it is the only endorsement from a former Barack Obama cabinet official to his successor.
On Farm Journal Media’s “AgriTalk” radio program, former Agriculture Secretary and Nebraska governor Mike Johanns spoke with host Mike Adams on Perdue’s transition into the nation’s highest position in agriculture. Johanns compared the transition to drinking through a firehose, but believes the long wait for the nomination was worth it.
“Donald Trump has picked the right guy,” Johanns told Adams. “I think Sonny is a good guy. He understands agriculture and I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Asked if he has any advice for Perdue, Johanns, who served as ag secretary under President George W. Bush starting in 2005, said it’s important he get to know the right people.
“There are a lot of good career people at USDA,” he said. “I’d get to know them. That was key to me.
“I think the role of the secretary of the USDA is to be the cheerleader for ag. It’s not just for political reasons. It’s important because we want to be a world-class competitor and we don’t ever want to lose the ability to produce the food we produce and sell it on a worldwide basis,” Johanns said.
Asked whether Perdue would face any disadvantage because his confirmation hearings aren’t expected to be held before mid- to late February, Johanns indicated it won’t be an issue.
“You’ll be starting behind a little bit. There will be some parts of the administration that have been in place since day one. I don’t think it will be a huge handicap, but there will be a little catch-up for a while,” he said.
When it comes to trade, Johanns said his hands were in trade every day while he served. While he backs President Trump on pursuing “fair” trade, he does have concerns.
“I worry—we don’t want to get things so upside down countries start looking for other places to buy their beef, pork, corn and soybeans because there are some world-class competitors out there,” Johanns said. “We fight to retain market share every day. We don’t want to lose that.”