The wait is over … Sonny Perdue was finally sworn in on Monday as the new secretary of agriculture, and it didn’t take him long to get to work.
After being sworn in, Perdue addressed USDA employees saying: “The only legacy that I seek is the only one that any grandparent or parent seeks – to be good stewards, and to hand off our nation, our home, our fields, our forests, and our farms to the next generation in better shape than we found it. … Making sure that Americans who make their livelihoods in the agriculture industry have the ability to thrive will be one of my top priorities. I am committed to serving the customers of USDA, and I will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.”
Soon after the swearing-in was over, or maybe even before, ringing endorsements of Perdue taking the helm of the USDA came in.
National Pork Producers Council President, Ken Maschhoff, from Carlyle, Ill., says “Perdue knows agriculture; I think he’ll do well as agriculture secretary. … he takes over at a critical time for agriculture, with work starting on a new farm bill and possibly on free trade agreements that would open new markets to U.S. pork and other agricultural products.”
America’s ag sector is banking on Perdue’s background as a farmer and veterinarian to serve the industry under the Trump administration. Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, issued a statement saying: “We look forward to working with Secretary Perdue to ensure the safety of the nation’s meat and poultry supply, expand trade opportunities around the world and to address the challenges facing our industry.”
National Corn Growers Association shares frustration with the delay in naming the secretary, as well as more work that needs to be done, in an issued statement, saying “USDA has been without a secretary for too long, but we are confident that Secretary Perdue will bring strong leadership to the department. There are still more than 200 political appointments at USDA that have yet to be made. We strongly urge the administration to move quickly in filling these positions.”
Perdue may be 70 years old, but he got a ringing endorsement from the National Young Farmers Coalition, the only national advocacy organization solely dedicated to supporting America’s young farmers and ranchers.
“With the rapidly aging farm population and the future of rural economies at stake, now is a critical time for leadership,” says National Young Farmers Coalition executive director and co-founder Lindsey Lusher Shute, who is herself a young farmer. “Already we’ve seen the very real consequences of delaying Mr. Perdue’s nomination — farmers and rural Americans have lacked the champion they need in the president’s cabinet. We hope that ends today, and we congratulate Secretary Perdue on his confirmation.”
American Farm Bureau Federation is excited about Perdue getting to work on behalf of American agriculture. Dale Moore, AFBF public policy executive director, says in an FB Focus interview: “One of the things that we’re excited about is that now we have a secretary of agriculture. Sonny Perdue was sworn in as the 31st secretary of agriculture after he confirmed by the Senate at a vote of 87-11 which is a pretty strong showing on any issue that comes through the Senate. So, what it means for agriculture is we now have the head of USDA, Sonny Perdue from Georgia, in place as secretary, and he can start that initial, very important work.”
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, echoes the relief that the wait for a confirmed secretary of agriculture is finally over. “Having endured months of the current farm crisis and drastic policy changes in Washington without a secretary of agriculture, family farmers and ranchers are relieved that Sonny Perdue has finally been confirmed to lead the USDA. We are hopeful Perdue will provide rural America with a strong voice in Washington. NFU stands ready to assist the new secretary as he navigates the myriad issues facing family agriculture and rural communities,” Johnson says in a statement.
I’m venturing a guess that Perdue’s influence was felt very quickly. President Donald Trump had said on the campaign trail that the United States would be getting out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. A draft executive order had even been drawn up to that effect.
News channels report that Trump changed his mind after talking to Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. That may have had something to do with it, but I like to think that Perdue may have gotten a word to the president about the errors of his ways to completely withdraw from NAFTA. All sides agree that NAFTA should be renegotiated to the benefit of all three countries since a lot has changed in the market landscape since NAFTA was enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Keeping pace with the modern world, the USDA wasted little time in launching the official Twitter handle @SecretarySonny for the secretary to share thoughts with the social media world. Maybe that’s the only way he’ll be able to communicate with the Tweeter-in-Chief.
Welcome to the USDA, Sonny Perdue.