Sec. Perdue's Top Priorities in Washington, Farm Country

May 17, 2017 12:00 PM

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will be in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington D.C. Wednesday to speak with the full House Agriculture Committee.

Perdue will be addressing the status of the farm economy in the midst of a four year, 50 percent decline.

Part of the discussion will include his vision for USDA and its role in feeding people, one of the latest events in his packed schedule since his confirmation.

Perdue says his priorities for agriculture include trade, labor, and regulatory reform. On trade, Perdue wasted no time, creating a new position as part of the USDA reorganization and as directed in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“It needs to be done and our plans are to have a deputy or undersecretary for trade for USDA,” said Perdue.

He says this position will be able to focus solely on opening export markets for U.S. products.

“The Foreign Ag Service ought to get up every day, how can I sell more?” asked Perdue. “Where can I sell more? Where can I go to trade these products?”

An executive order also charged Perdue to chair an interagency task force on agriculture and rural prosperity. It focuses on regulatory reform with a report due in 180 days.

“We think all of these agencies are literally going to do a top to bottom review of all the regulations,” said Chuck Conner, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

Perdue says this will build on the regulatory rollback already started by President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“He’s already demonstrated a real understanding of the barriers that we put out in our farms and fields all across this country, and we’re committed to do even more,” said Perdue.

This is a change in approach to regulations that farm groups are applauding.

“We’re going to be based on science, based on data, and we’re going to be transparent,” said Daren Coppock, CEO of the Agriculture Retailers Association.

Perdue is also focused on labor and says President Trump wants immigration reform that benefit agriculture.

“Let’s fix this longer term,” said Chris Galen, senior vice president of communications with the National Milk Producers Federation. “Let’s create a workable guest worker visa-type program that works specifically for dairy and other types of employers that don’t just need seasonal help—they need year-round help.”

While these priorities are commendable, it’s a tall task considering Sec. Perdue must also build his team at USDA.

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