Earlier today, an exclusive interview by AgriTalk host Mike Adams interviewed newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The two talked through a wide variety of issues affecting the agriculture industry.
Read on for a few highlights – or, listen to the entire interview below.
Q: The president came out with a proposed budget cutting discretionary spending for USDA by 21%. That raised a lot of concerns about people in agriculture and members of Congress. How do you address that issue?
A: Just like [when I was] Governor, I didn’t like some revenue estimates that we were having in a balanced-budget state. But what we did, we took what we had and we did more with less in many cases, and we managed effectively. We’re going to do that her at USDA.
Q: There have been some concerns raised about losing an undersecretary for rural development. Could you address those concerns and how you feel you’re still emphasizing rural development?
A: My goal was to make sure that the person who was in charge of implementing our rural development policy across the country was elevated from an undersecretary position, which then had to report to a deputy secretary and then come up to me. I wanted the person in charge of rural development to have access to me, that they could walk into my office anytime they needed a decision. I plan to be intimately involved with deploying the resources of rural development across this country. It’s a great distribution network, and we want to utilize that to even a greater degree. I honestly believe this is an elevation of the mission with more direct access than an undersecretary would have had in that position.
Q: The president has said he’ll take into consideration and protect the farm workers that are needed in this country. Can you share any insight on the direction the administration is looking at as far as dealing with the immigration issue?
A: I cannot yet, other than he’s asked us to be part of that solution and to provide ideas and resolutions to haow we have adequate farm labor agricultural workers across the country without violating his primary concern – to make sure that the illegal immigrants who are committing crimes against the U.S. people are removed from this country. We’re going to give him suggestions of how we can have programs that will make sure that U.S. agricultural interests are represented with enough farm labor.
Q: Looking ahead to the writing of the next farm bill, have you already started thinking about some things that the administration will be wanting to see? How involved to you anticipate being in that process?
A: We’re going to be as supporting as [Congress] want us to be regarding information, regarding data, regarding research. We want to be a real resource. I hope that members of Congress in both the House and Senate committees will lean on me to give them a perspective of what’s happening in all of agriculture. I know they will have plenty of comments from their own constituencies and their own issues, but we have a broad perspective here … and I hope they will call on us to help write a farm bill that is the best one we’ve seen.
Q: What is your role going to be on trade matters?
A: It’ll be lock-in-step with our Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, as well as our trade representative who just got confirmed this week, Bob Lighthizer. We’re going to be the technical people that advise, but with our new undersecretary for trade, we’re going to have a salesman on the road as well – opening doors, opening markets and making sure the world knows about the bountiful resources and the safe, abundant food that we have to help feed the world.