Sonny Perdue III, the former governor of Georgia, is president-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate to be his U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Perdue, 70, would succeed secretary Tom Vilsack. Perdue met with Trump on Nov. 30 and told reporters they talked about agricultural commodities traded domestically and internationally. While Perdue is the front-runner, the decision isn’t final, the person said.
Trump rode to his election victory partly on strong support from voters in rural areas clamoring for an economic turnaround. Farm incomes are expected to fall for a third successive year while debt levels have climbed.
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Perdue appears to be emerging from a broad pack of candidates. Trump and his aides have interviewed several others, including former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano, former Texas U.S. Representative Henry Bonilla, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, former California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, Idaho Governor Butch Otter, and North Dakota U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat. Politico reported earlier that Perdue is the front-runner.
The president-elect’s statements during his campaign covered areas that could have major implications for agricultural businesses. The U.S. is a major exporter of crops and other farm commodities, and that flow of goods may be disrupted if Trump follows through with a pledge to reshape trading relationships with China and other countries. Such changes might also affect global commodity prices.
Additionally, if U.S. immigration laws are enforced more strictly, business owners could face labor shortages. Undocumented workers comprise a major slice of the U.S. farm and agricultural labor force. On the other hand, farmers may stand to gain from a promised relaxation of environmental regulations.
If nominated, Perdue would also need to deal with the 2018 Farm Bill. Rural America’s new-found political influence will help shape the legislation, Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and a Trump adviser, has said.
Perdue -- no relation to the family of the same name that owns chicken producer Perdue Farms Inc. -- was born in Perry, Georgia. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he served as a state senator. In 2003, he became the first Republican governor of the state in 130 years. He stepped down in 2011, and the same year he founded Perdue Partners LLC, which according to its LinkedIn profile, is an Atlanta-based trading company .