Perdue Breezes Through Ag Secretary Nomination Hearing

March 23, 2017 12:08 PM

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue enjoyed an amicable start to his Senate confirmation hearing to become the next USDA Secretary of Agriculture, receiving bipartisan compliments and fielding a broad range of questions about the agriculture sector and rural America. The meeting concluded in just over two hours.

Perdue spoke candidly about commodity price volatility, immigration reform, trade opportunities with Cuba and Asia, industry regulations, proposed cuts to USDA’s budget, food safety, RFS, rural infrastructure, rural safety and more.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., expressed concerns that the Trump administration is not making rural America a priority in the wake of a proposed 21% cut to USDA’s budget for 2018. Stabenow noted that several programs within USDA would be “zeroed out or severely cut” under the budget proposal.

“Having not been confirmed, I’ve had no input into the budget, obviously,” he said, but added that during his time as Georgia governor, he came across budgets he didn’t like, “but I managed to it.”

Regarding immigration reform, Perdue admitted many farms are highly affected by potential outcomes.

“I plan to be a voice to persuade policy makers over this issue,” he said. “Virtually every state in the nation is affected to some degree.”

Several senators asked about opening trade to Cuba. Perdue said he welcomed that country as a customer but based on a prior trade visit he attended, he said the real issue is Cuba’s ability to pay for those commodity exports.

Perdue also expressed interest in developing trade markets in other areas of the world, southeast Asia in particular.

“Trade is the answer,” he said.

Perdue was complimentary both of USDA staff and of U.S. farmers.

“There’s great talent over there,” he said of the current USDA staff. “There’s a great opportunity to learn from them.”

Meantime, he said farming was largely unrecognized as the “highest tech industry” in the U.S. for the past several years, and said farmers themselves serve as the bedrock for large parts of rural America.

“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.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said there will be a five-day period for other Senators to submit a statement, and a committee vote will be scheduled afterward.

Roberts and others in the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture said they have high expectations for strong leadership from within USDA, especially as preparations for the 2018 farm bill begin.

"Now more than any other, agriculture needs a champion at the highest level of government," Roberts noted earlier this week during the Farm Bill Summit.

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Spell Check

Jonesboro, AR
3/24/2017 10:02 AM

  I support the USDA cuts 100%. This out of control government has got to be reigned in. I saw nothing in the cut list that we can't do without. As for Perdue, I think he will be a good ag secretary.

Gilbert Hofmeister
American Falls , ID
3/23/2017 10:44 PM

  The ag community got behind trump because of Hilliard's lying and look what they got, the biggest liar and fraud in America. This administration has no concerns for ag and Mr. Perdue will have little or no say in the budget process. Ag better tighten their belts and hope like h--- that we can survive this raging idiots tantrums and no concern for anyone but himself, his family and his billionaire cabinet, and of course our good friends in Russia. So sad.

three 40s
cokato , MN
3/23/2017 04:47 PM

  Perdue already sounds like a yes man to the establishment not to those voted his boss in office just saying


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