Things have been going smoothly for former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on his road to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His confirmation hearings were likely the least contested of any of President Trump’s cabinet appointees, and on Thursday, March 30, he passed a vote of the Senate Agriculture Committee with flying colors.
“I’m pleased our Committee has made swift strides to move Governor Perdue’s nomination closer to the finish line,” according to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. “Our farmers and ranchers have been waiting too long for this important position to be filled. We need to get Governor Perdue down to USDA to get to work. Rural America is ready.”
However, former Agriculture Secretary Vilsack told AgriTalk Host Mike Adams Perdue’s the path to success after taking the helm might be a little bit rocky.
5 Challenges Perdue Will Face Right Away
1. The Department Isn’t Fully Staffed. According to Vilsack, Perdue doesn’t have a lot of key staff people in place which will present a challenge. “He doesn’t have undersecretaries or administrators that can run the department as he wishes,” Vilsack said on AgriTalk Thursday.
2. Department Staff Hasn’t Had A Boss. It’s been several months since Secretary Vilsack left his office in the department. “He’s going to be confronted with a department that has not had a secretary for a couple of months and that’s an issue,” Vilsack says.
3. Bird Flu. Over the past few months, farmers in the Southeast have been faced with multiple avian influenza outbreaks. According to Vilsack, avian influenza is always a problem – not only for the farmer, but also for the impact it has on trade.
4. Trump’s Proposed Budget. In his recently released budget proposal, President Trump called for deep cuts to USDA funding by about 21%. Vilsack thinks this will be a huge hurdle for Perdue. “He’s got the budget and some of the budget cuts which the president has proposed which would make it more difficult for him to run the department if it were passed as it is today,” Vilsack says. “Perdue is going to walk in there and is going to have to educate the OMB and the White House about the leanness of the USDA budget and the good work that’s being done.”
5. Trade. Whether it’s President Trump’s retraction from the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, or renegotiating NAFTA, Vilsack said trade will be a hurdle. “He’s going to confront the issues involving trade discussions and negotiations,” he says. “Whether that’s what to do now that we’re out of TPP or what do we do with NAFTA renegotiation and how does that impact agriculture in rural America.”